Hard work behind the scenes from Reeves, Rudder pays off
By David Knox
Thanks to hard work from State Sen. Shane Reeves and State Rep. Iris Rudder, $854,351 in grant money from the state will soon be on its way to Metropolitan Lynchburg Moore County.
Mayor Bonnie Lewis formally thanked them at a lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s and also presented them with personalized bottles of Gentleman Jack.
“There is a lot of work going to take place in the county in the coming months because of grant money we will be receiving,” Lewis said, and none of it local tax dollars.
For a while, though, it looked like Lynchburg Moore County wouldn’t get quite as large a share as it ended up with.
This all began when Gov. Bill Lee allocated $1oo million dollars to local counties and municipalities in his 2020-21 budget, money coming from a surplus in the state’s coffers.
The grant is for one-time expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The surplus comes from nearly $776.7 million in over collections from the previous fiscal year, along with unbudgeted revenue growth over projections in the current budget.
The proposal split the funds into two pools of $50 million — one for counties and one for cities. Each of the 95 counties would be eligible for a minimum of $250,000 out of the county pool. The remainder of the county pool would be distributed between counties based on population. For cities, the base amount of the grant is $15,000.
Therein lies an issue – would Metro Lynchburg Moore County get money as both a city and a county, as one of three metro governments (along with Trousdale and Nashville-Davidson County) in the state? The answer to that is yes, but it took behind-the-scenes work from Reeves and Rudder, with a little push from Lewis, to make it happen.
Reeves worked his magic in the Senate while Rudder worked her contacts, getting Jack Daniels on board among others and preached how Moore County needed its money to anyone who was listen.
Still, “I did not have much hope,” Reeves said. But somehow, some way, he and Rutter got it done. “It was phenomenal that it happened,” Rudder said. “I don’t know how it happened. But my motto is don’t ever give up.”
The original figure was for $360,598. But Lee increased the grant money after the tornado and COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, saying now more than ever money is needed to go back into the counties and cities. “He said instead of $50 million to counties and $50M to cities, they would double the money! Now you could use the money to fix tornado damage or use for COVID expenses too,” Lewis said.
That would be $721,196.
But when Lewis received notification on how to file for the aid, she learned the final numbers approved were not double for Moore County or Trousdale. There had been resistance to Nashville-Davidson County getting such a large amount that a rule was made that metro governments couldn’t get both allocations, only the larger of the two.
According to that calculation, Moore County’s portion was down to $549,716. That didn’t seem fair to Lewis. There’s a big difference from Nashville to Trousdale and Moore County.
“I reached out to Shane and Iris and employed them to be mad with me. Of course they were out of session but both of them started reaching out to their contacts. We stayed in contact. I got my paperwork ready, approved by the council and was waiting until they thought I should apply.”
After the legislature went back into session June 1, Reeves and Rudder stayed in contact with Lewis as they met with constituents and others. All three participated in a call with the comptroller’s office and they were in contact with the governor’s office as well.
“By June 16,” Lewis said, “Shane suggested we apply for the lesser amount and that he and the senator for Trousdale County would co-sponsor a bill in January that would not allow small counties like ours to be grouped in metro discussions with bigger Nashville.
“I really was disappointed and was sitting on it for a few days.”
But late at night on June 18, Lewis got a text from Rudder that said she’d heard that
Moore County is going to get its money. She texted “Never give up!”
“And I texted Bonnie and she said, ‘No we didn’t.’ I said, ‘Yes, you did! I’ve got it from a very reliable source.’”
Reeves texted a while later with the same news, but it took some doing for Lewis to accept the good news. Reeves also texted “Never give up.”
“Between Shane and I we convinced Bonnie that she got it,” Rudder said.
Reeves’ last text that night was near midnight with the new total: $854,351.
Moore County is allocated $689,351 and Lynchburg $165,000.
Reeves is pondering a bill that would make sure Lynchburg Moore County doesn’t get lumped in with Nashville-Davidson County again.
“I want to make sure in the future Moore County doesn’t get penalized for being a metro government. Whatever formula they’re using isn’t right. I do think moving forward we ought to still look at that because Moore and Trousdale are very different from Davidson.”
For now, though, Lewis is on Cloud 9, and very appreciative of the work Reeves and Rudder did on behalf of Lynchburg and Moore County.
“I don’t think this would have happened if they had not stayed in there and fought for us,” Lewis said. “I want them to be publicly thanked and I want Moore County to know, with their help, and the governor’s grant money, we will fix a lot of things in the county.”