Local governments saying "thank you" in different ways - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Local governments saying "thank you" in different ways for holidays

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The Roanoke County holiday luncheon recognizes past and current employees. The meal is paid for with money from the general fund, the same fund that provides money for things like schools and parks and recreation. According to Clay Goodman, the county administrator, the cost for this year's luncheon is more than $17,000.

"It's budgeted on a yearly basis and talked about included in the budget and we hope we can try to maintain it," says Goodman.

The county considers it a gift for the approximately 800 people who come, a way to say thank you for their hard work. Meanwhile, the city of Roanoke holds a similar celebration recognizing its employees and retirees at a holiday breakfast held at the Roanoke Civic Center.

We found out it costs taxpayers about $572 for set up and clean up and $15,763 for catering or just more than $16,000.  Assistant to the city manager Aisha Johnson told it's a small portion of the city's $200 million dollar operating budget. Unlike the county, the city doesn't budget for this breakfast, it decides year to year if there's enough money for it.

"In years past we did a holiday luncheon," says Johnson. "The last time that was held was in 2010 since then we have switched it to a holiday breakfast which does take away some of the costs of it."

The last city luncheon cost about $20,000, money from a contingency fund which is used for any emergency or unexpected expenses.  

However with rising costs and limited resources, we learned some other cities, towns, and counties have eliminated holiday parties including Radford, Martinsville, town of Bedford, Bedford County, and Salem.

The mayor of Salem gives employees extra days off instead of a holiday party. The last one it had was five years ago.

"Some of those things were the easiest to eliminate when times got tough," says Randy Foley, mayor of Salem.  

Lynchburg gets creative. Before budget cuts, the city gave each employee a $10 coupon that added up to about $12,000. But to find a way to recognize city employees without using thousands in taxpayer money, the Human Resources Director, Margaret Schmitt, suggested using money from city vending machines.  

"The contractor provides our proceeds that come from the city's employing buying things through the vending machines," says Schmitt.

For this year's holiday reception, the city used about $458 for food from vending machine proceeds and about $53 of city money for supplies. The city also holds the reception at their information technology building which is free.

As for Roanoke City and Roanoke County, officials believe tradition is more important because employees look forward to it each year.  

"It's very common for people to meet and thank them for their service to our citizens throughout the year," says Goodman.

In Blacksburg, there's a luncheon that costs about $5,000 to serve 220 people and in Montgomery County there's a dinner that runs about the same price for approximately 200 people as well.     

At these holiday parties it's a chance for local governments to give back too. At this year's holiday luncheon for Roanoke County, people brought canned foods for the local food banks and last year the county collected several hundred pounds of food. Roanoke city holds a food drive too benefiting Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

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