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Funds dry up for Carroll pool

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll's public pool might be a victim of the weak economy in the short term, but county supervisors still hope to improve recreational offerings in the long term, says board Chairman David Hutchins.

The recession means less revenue for Carroll on a number of fronts, like state aid to localities dropping by $132,742, expected lower sales and real estate tax collections and extra costs for services the county has to absorb.

In working up the fiscal year 2009-2010 budget proposal, county officials have kept money for schools level, funded only half of $2.4 million in capital expense requests, offered no pay raises for employees while keeping the tax rates the same.

Making the total budget — $32 million for general county and $42.7 million for schools — required making cuts, noted Hutchins.

Closing the pool was one of those cuts, he noted. It is the only public service expected to take such a hit because of budget trimming.

The pool is expensive to operate, Hutchins said. According to numbers from the county, in the current fiscal year the budget for the pool totaled $66,398 with capital expenses and it's brought in $6,694 in revenue so far. (The fiscal year runs from July to June and the pool generated that revenue last July and August.)

The pool expenses were $37,760 in fiscal year 2008, and it brought in $11,165 in revenue.

"It was scheduled for closure last year, but we sucked it up and found the dollars, but I don't know where we'll find it this time," Hutchins said.

The budget isn't finalized yet, he noted. If the pool cuts go through, he expects the county could save as much as $50,000 or $60,000.

County supervisors will discuss the budget again, he said. If county officials want to put something in, they'll have to take something else out.

One of the features of this budget that Hutchins likes is that it has a capital improvement plan.

A long-term goal of the supervisors is to have a recreation park with a pool, he said. The recreation commission has been studying possibilities for new facilities, and the supervisors want to improve the county's offerings.

"The rec department is not a dead issue," Hutchins said. "We want to make it something our citizens can be proud of."

Carroll officials recently announced the county had hired Beth Carico as the new parks and recreation director. She has park ranger and management experience, as she has served as assistant manager of the New River Trail State Park in Galax.

In announcing her hiring, county officials said that her experiences working "with Virginia's natural resources will complement and enhance the programs currently underway in the recreation department."

Hutchins commended the recreation commission that's been working so hard to help achieve the recreation goals. They've been doing a great job, he said.

"This board's goal is to have a first-class rec department and first-class facilities, given the resources we have to work with," Hutchins said.

The Carroll supervisors have scheduled a public hearing on the budget for May 18 at 7 p.m. at the Carroll County Governmental Center.