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Commonwealth's Counties

Region 2 Meeting Features Robust Local Authority Discussion

VACo held its second of eight regional meetings for 2024 on May 22 at the Law Enforcement Center in James City County.  VACo staff had the honor of traveling to James City County, which graciously hosted the event, to meet with local elected officials and staff. Region 2 encompasses the counties of Essex, Gloucester, James City, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland and York.  These regional meetings allow us to hear directly from county staff and elected officials on the important issues facing localities across Virginia. They also help VACo staff craft the legislative program for the upcoming 2025 legislative session.

The meeting began with VACo President-Elect, Supervisor Ruth Larson from James City County, welcoming all attendees to her lovely county. After introductions, we welcomed Cheryl Wilson, Executive Director of the Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission (VA250), who spoke about the great things the Commission is doing in preparation for the 250th anniversary of American independence.  The Commission’s goal is to educate, engage and inspire Virginians and to do this, they offer many programs and grant funding opportunities for localities to highlight their unique stories and exclusive resources.

Next on the agenda was an opportunity for a representative from each county to outline top issues or legislative priorities. Several issues emerged as common areas of concern, including local authority, school funding,

Local authority, like at most VACo meetings, was a major discussion topic. Emphasizing local authority for land use decisions, including housing, short term rentals, data centers and solar siting is and has always been a priority for VACo. VACo staff reaffirmed this commitment during the meeting as county leaders shared examples of the importance of this this authority to county governance. School funding was discussed often and specifically county leader support for the elimination of the cap on recognition of support positions in the state K-12 funding formula. An issue that has been gaining relevance in county circles has been the impacts of the constitutional amendment that provides for a real estate tax exemption for certain disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. First implemented in 2011, this amendment is having varying impacts to counties depending on their population. While county members reaffirmed their strong commitment to supporting veterans, they also encouraged the state to assist in mitigating the impact on local tax revenue, particularly in localities with a large portion of the local tax base that is exempt. Lastly, affordable housing was discussed, and county leaders reiterated their desire for the state to pursue incentives for localities to adopt more affordable housing instead of proposed mandates to do so.

VACo is grateful to the regional members, Senator Diggs’s office, and business partners who participated in the meeting. VACo would like to give a special thanks to Cheryl Wilson from VA250 for coming and speaking to the group. Lastly, VACo would like to thank James City County and the staff at the Law Enforcement Center for hosting and sharing their wonderful facility with us.

VACo Contact: James Hutzler

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