The big dog

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The Bedford County Board of Supervisors has spent the past year flexing its muscles and showing folks who’s in charge.
    And that show of strength probably isn’t over.
    Last budget season, it was the School Board that felt the supervisors’ squeeze. The supervisors felt deceived by the School Board’s proposed budget last year and, in response, withheld $1.1 million in additional funding for the school system, which would have been provided by a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. The supervisors made it clear who held the purse strings and that they wouldn’t tolerate closing any schools.
    It’s certainly not the only time in recent memory the School Board has had its budget dictated by the supervisors.
    Just look at the money left over from the Jefferson Forest High School renovation project. At one point the School Board was set to build a gymnasium for Bedford Primary School with some of those funds, about $1 million. Then the supervisors stepped in and that project was dumped in the trash. The students at BPS still don’t have a gym, even though the supervisors punished the School Board for even considering closing that school last year. About $1.4 million of those funds continue to remain unspent, though debt service is being paid on it. Now the School Board will once again have to go back and ask the supervisors to approve use of those funds—this time the request is for the money to be transferred to help fund this year’s maintenance budget.
    The Bedford County Planning Commission has also spent the past few months under the dictate of the supervisors power. After several years of putting together a new zoning ordinance for the county to adopt, the supervisors opted to ditch that plan and adopt its own amendments to the current zoning ordinance instead. That move was unacceptable to several of the planning commissioners, so much so that one resigned in protest. The supervisors also booted one of the other members from the planning commission and another chose to step down.
    Then there was last week’s actions.
    The supervisors forced long-time county employee Kathleen Guzi to resign. After more than a quarter century of service to Bedford County—including the past seven years as county administrator—the supervisors made it clear they wanted her gone. The unceremonious dismissal was cloaked in secrecy with no real explanation, other than a referral to “management style” by one supervisor. Board Chairman Chuck Neudorfer wanted no part of it, however, calling the actions of the supervisors “the most unprofessional process I have ever been involved in.”
    Just what the supervisors plan to do with this year’s budget remains to be seen. Interim County Administrator Frank Rogers will be the one to guide them through that process. One fact is certain, the supervisors have made it abunantly clear who the big dog is when it comes to making the final decisions.