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Roanoke City Budget Hearing Draws A Crowd

Mark Powell and Rushdat Hale

by Valerie Garner

Last Thursday evening cuts to the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resource component of the budget hit a nerve with 50 of about 70 people who showed up for the budget hearing.

Seventeen out of 21 speakers asked that the $19,000 unfunded VCE agricultural component be restored. Mike Martin VCE District Director said, “Residents do benefit directly in horticultural needs such as lawn care, fertilization, tree management, home landscaping, and home vegetable and flower garden production.” The services are also available to pubic entities said Martin.

Mark Powell director of the Roanoke Community Gardens said, “a fully functional Virginia Cooperative Extension is vital to the continued success and expansion to community gardens. Our organization relies upon the VCE for assistance with design and development of community gardens and the creation of youth gardens.” VCE master gardener volunteers were invaluable, he said.

Rushdat Hale from Niger says she has an 1000 square foot urban farm plot she shares with other immigrants. Hale also supported the benefits of VCE assistance in community gardening.

Another area of concern was Arts funding. Executive Director of the Roanoke Symphony, Beth Pline, asked council to reconsider the 25 percent cut in funding to the Roanoke Arts Commission, asset development for economy and education. She told council that, “we are a revenue generator for the city. We collect admissions tax on your behalf. The Roanoke Symphony alone serves over 14,000 discrete individuals per year who attend at least one of our concerts … Cuts to us really do make an impact.” she said.

Pline also emphasized their role in tourism. They need matching city funds for the half million dollars in grant requests that have been sent out. “We may not be able to accept these grants should we get them.”

Dallas Powell wanted to save the city money by reducing code enforcement and solid waste inspectors. The solution he said, would be to bill the tenant rather than the landlord for things like trash can violations. Tenants then would be more accountable which would reduce the need for enforcement personnel.

City Council and the administration will consider the requests as they hold a briefing on Monday May 7 at 9:00 a.m. in council chambers.

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