Bath’s New County Administrator, Matt Walker, Is Getting Settled Into The Job
Warm Springs, VA – Bath County’s new administrator, Matt Walker, has been on the job full time for two months now. Walker has experience working in rural localities and understands the challenges and opportunities of rural areas. And he’s seeing how Bath is similar to other areas and how it’s different too.
“Well, you know, Bath County’s a small county, but it’s not,” says Walker. “We have a fairly large budget. We have a lot going on and the previous county administrator and the board now, the outgoing board, really had things moving in the county and we hope to keep that going in the same direction and keep the projects moving forward. So there’s right much going on for a small rural locality.”
Walker has worked as a Planning Director and as the Director of Community Development for King William County and Middlesex County. He has also been the town manager in Warsaw and in Orange.
Walker feels Bath County’s high composite index is one of its biggest challenges. The index is the formula by which Virginia distributes school funding. And the higher the composite index, the less funding the state gives a locality’s school system, leaving the locality to make up the difference in the money.
“With a .8 composite index its a little bit more of a challenge for rural localities especially like Bath and Middlesex County, some of the coastal counties along the Chesapeake Bay, because we don’t see the sales tax revenue that say that Fairfax and Alexandria, those communities see,” says Walker. “And they’re basically funding a lot of their school system from that revenue, where as we have to make it up from other areas of the budget.”
After attending the recent Virginia Association of Counties Conference, Walker feels the 2012-2013 budget is going to be another challenge. With Virginia facing a tight budget, that means localities will be facing the same thing.
“One underlying theme of the conference was the state continuing to lower the expectations of what localities can depend on them for,” says Walker. “The budget outlook in the state for 2013 is not looking pretty good, that’s putting it mildly. I think the State Director of Finance gave a speech down here at VACo that basically said they think it’s going to be the most difficult budget that they’ve faced during this whole economic downturn.”
Before long, Walker won’t be the only one in a new job in Bath County. A number of new leaders will take the helm in January.
“You know, I welcome the new board and the newly elected officials,” says Walker. “I’m very optimistic about the future of the county. I think the new board brings a series of strengths and abilities to their positions and I think we’re going to be able to work very effectively as a team and continue some of the great work that’s been done in the past and maybe go out and do new things too.”
In Bath County, 2012 will bring a new sheriff, a new county treasurer and all new members on both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors.