I am a lifelong resident of Middleburg. I’ve served for 17 years on Town Council and currently act as Vice Mayor (8 years), having previously been a Planning Commissioner and Vice Chair. I cringed when I read Mr. Bataoel’s recent op-ed. Mr. Bataoel has announced he is running for Mayor for the Town of Middleburg in May, but his article made two naïve, and to be honest, wrong claims about the town and what he would wish to do. I’ll focus my response on three key issues
First of all, compared to towns the size of Middleburg our utility rates are comparable. I didn’t say great, but comparable. Most nearby towns have out-of-town users who connect and use the utilities paying a far higher rate than in-town users, offsetting the in-town rates. Middleburg has no out-of-town users, and with good reason. This is a decade old purposeful policy to keep the surrounding areas near Middleburg from being overly developed unlike our neighbors to the North, South, and East. Look just south of Purcellville, and you know what I mean.
Secondly, the claim Middleburg has $6.6 million lying around is misleading. I TRULY wish we did! Before making such an uninformed claim, Mr. Bataoel should have done the hard homework to fully understand the financial health of the Town. Middleburg’s finances are much more than a single number. The Town Council has worked extremely hard since the early 2000s to raise the budget reserves from a deficit. That limited reserve is for a purpose, to help us weather the next rainy days when they come and is also kept in check by significant debt service ($4.2 million) which we owe for capital improvements, chiefly our Route 50 and water main upgrades. Three funds share the money the Town has, and they include utility, health center, and the general fund. Some of the money in the account is grant money which cannot be touched, except for the item it was requested for. Utilities and General Fund must keep 20% of its operating expenses in the accounts untouched. Health Center Funds are completely restricted. Some of the money in our accounts is invested, but as a town, we have restrictions on what amount and who we can invest with. The Town also raises funds by renting our properties as best as possible, including the water towers for use to cell phone companies. Trust me your Town is doing its best to raise money any way it can without increasing the taxes for our citizens or the businesses.
Finally, onto Mr. Bataoel’s qualifications in the running for Mayor, the Mayor of Middleburg represents all Middleburg’s citizens and businesses not only within the Town but also more broadly to the County and the State. We cannot afford a Mayor who makes embarrassingly bogus and naïve statements. One requirement for running for mayor is that you must reside in the Town of Middleburg, not just own a business here, as Mr. Bataoel currently does. Mr. Bataoel will be moving to Middleburg shortly thus fulfilling the basic requirements of candidacy. As a resident and council member, I’ve always felt it was best that whoever ran for Mayor lived in town more than half a year, had served on Council, or was a member of the Planning Commission which would give them a much more comprehensive background on the intricacies of Town, its policies, and procedures of how our Town government works. There are long hours, and hard work donated by dedicated residents who give and contribute to our success.
Perhaps if Mr. Bataoel had served on a regulatory committee such as the Planning Commission, he would be better informed. Now please don’t get me wrong. I like Vincent, and I like him a lot. I just think he’s running for the wrong spot. Before running for mayor, educate yourself by serving on the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals or running for a Town Council seat. You would be surprised at the amount of knowledge and information that is shared in our meetings and on these committees. Vincent, I believe, has his heart is the right place. I admire and commend his will to serve, but I wish he would truly learn how our Town government functions first to get the background that the Mayor needs. I wish him the best of luck, but as for me, I’ll support a candidate who has more substantial knowledge of the Town government’s policies and procedures. Middleburg deserves a leader as Mayor instead of someone who simply spouts off a comment to attract attention at the expense of the citizens, businesses, Town staff, Council, and Mayor.
Darlene Kirk, Middleburg , Va