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13 Financial Planning Strategies for 2013

June 4, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

Part three of a series
By Amy Smith

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012(ATRA) on New Year’s Day. A number of changes came out of the act that will affect your tax bill. In this month’s column, I will be offering financial planning strategies for you to consider in 2013 that by taking appropriate action may help you avoid an unexpected tax bill next April.

7. REVISIT YOUR PLANNED CHARITABLE GIVING
Charitable giving can reduce your tax burden and also provide a sense of satisfaction by benefiting your favorite causes. Generally, donations to qualified charities count as an itemized deduction for that tax year. This includes cash, real estate, or other assets. The deductibility of charitable gifts is based on several factors, such as the donor’s income, the nature of the donation, and the charity receiving the donation. A sound plan can help offset an increase in taxes in 2013 due to higher taxes. … Continue Reading

The “Fiscal Cliff”

September 5, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

What is the “fiscal cliff”? It’s the term being used by many to describe the unique combination of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013. The ominous term reflects the belief by some that taken together, higher taxes and decreased spending at the levels prescribed have the potential to derail the economy. Whether we do indeed step off the cliff at the end of the year, and what exactly that will mean for the economy depends on several factors.

Will expiring tax breaks be extended?

With the “Bush tax cuts” set to sunset at the end of 2012, federal tax rates will jump up in 2013. We’ll go from six federal tax brackets (10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, 28 percent, 33 percent and 35 percent) to five (15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent, and 39.6 percent). The maximum rate that applies to long-term capital gains will generally increase from 15 percent to 20 percent. … Continue Reading

What Does the Supreme Court Ruling on the Health-Care Reform Law Mean for You?

July 31, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision, that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) including the provision that most Americans carry health insurance or pay a penalty, is constitutional.

The ACA, signed into law in 2010, made sweeping reforms to health-care coverage in the United States. Many provisions of the law have already taken effect. A number of other provisions are scheduled to take effect in subsequent years, including the requirement that most Americans and legal residents have qualifying health insurance (exceptions apply) or pay a penalty in the form of a tax. … Continue Reading

Asset Allocation in Retirement

June 6, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

Asset Allocation in Retirement
Your asset allocation should be dynamic and flexible-adjusting with you as you move through life. Finding your unique formula for the many years you hope to spend in retirement is an important consideration as you transition your lifestyle into your non-income producing years.

The asset allocation formula that worked for you as you were building your nest egg will need to change to a more conservative approach, perhaps allocating a greater percentage of your overall portfolio to income-generating investments as you grow older. Simply put, you don’t want to assume the same level of risk since your capacity and investing time horizon to recover from losses is no longer as great. Your focus should now be on preserving capital and generating a predictable income stream to supplement other income sources.

Allowing For Inflation
Although it’s not a problem right now, many observers believe we will be facing higher inflation down the road. That can be a very real problem in retirement. For example, at a three percent inflation rate, $100,000 worth of purchasing power declines to $54,379 in 20 years. Most people also assume that their healthcare costs are going to increase in their later years, so you will want to allow for that, too. These two factors, plus the possibility of other unexpected expenses, mean that you are likely to still need some percentage of growth-oriented assets in your portfolio.

As the market gyrations of the past few years demonstrated quite convincingly, one of the big risks of investing is having to sell at the wrong time. For this reason, you also need to keep a certain percentage of your assets liquid, in cash or equivalent, so you can access that money quickly if needed. Although everyone’s situation is different, keeping six to 24 months’ or more worth of expenses in cash is a good goal. To visualize the benefit of this, think about the difference between an investor who had to raise money by selling stocks during the market crash of 2009 versus another who could wait until a few months later.

How Long Should You Plan For?
While you can’t know for certain how many years you’ll spend in retirement, we do know that because life spans in general are increasing, the years people spend in retirement are also increasing. For example, actuaries say that for a couple who are both 65 when they retire, there’s an 85% probability that at least one of them will live past 85. This means that your assets may have to last you quite a long time.

Living longer also means that the growth oriented portion of your portfolio has more time to experience the magic of compounding. For example, if you have $100,000 allocated to that portion and are able to achieve annual returns of 6%, after 10 years you’ll have $179,084.77, and after 15 years, you’ll have $239,655.82. This assumes no losses-a good reason to stick with less-risky investments.

Asset allocation in retirement is a critically important element of your overall plan-be sure to get some expert help in deciding what’s best for you. Also, don’t forget to revisit your formula periodically to be sure your asset mix is increasingly conservative as you get older.

Amy V. Smith Wealth Management, LLC, is an independent firm. Amy is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Her office is located at 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Ste 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. www.amysmithwealthmanagement.com.

The opinions and recommendations here are those of the columnist and not necessarily those of Raymond James or RJFS. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

The Long-Term Care Dilemma: Insurers Leaving, Premiums Increasing

Amy Smith-BRL

If you’ve planned for long-term care, you’ve done well because there’s a pretty good chance you or your spouse will have a need for care at some point. According to the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care (www.longtermcare.gov) about 70 percent of people over age 65 will need some type of care during their lifetimes and more than 40 percent will require care in a nursing home.
According to the National clearinghouse, in 2010 it cost an average of $75,000 per year ­for a semiprivate room in a nursing home, while one year of care at home costs about $19,700 per year. … Continue Reading

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2011

April 4, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

Good news! There’s still time to make a regular IRA contribution for 2011. You have until your tax return due date (not including extensions) to contribute up to $5,000 for 2011($6,000 if you were aged 50 by December 31, 2011.) For most taxpayers, the contribution deadline for 2011 is April 17, 2012. Normally, your tax return must be filed by April 15. However, the IRS has extended the deadline to April 17 this year because April 15 is a Sunday and April 16 is a holiday in Washington, D.C. (Emancipation Day). … Continue Reading

The Power of Dividends in a Portfolio

March 7, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

It wasn’t so long ago that many investors regarded dividends as roughly the financial equivalent of a record turntable at a gathering of MP3 users – a throwback to an earlier era, irrelevant to the real action.

But fast-forward a few years and things look a little different. Since 2003, when the top federal income tax rate on qualified dividends was reduced to 15 percent from a maximum of 38.6 percent, dividends have acquired new respect. Favorable tax treatment isn’t the only reason, either; the ability of dividends to provide income and potentially help mitigate market volatility is also attractive to investors. As baby boomers approach retirement and begin to focus on income-producing investments, the long-term demand for high-quality, reliable dividends is likely to increase. … Continue Reading

Modestly Optimistic in 2012?

February 2, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

“We are suffering just now from a bad case of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterized the century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead.” — John Maynard Keynes … Continue Reading

7 Steps to Increase Your Wealth

January 5, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

Being rich is not hard. It’s a matter of adopting the right attitude.

After all, the woman convinced by her mother that she’ll always be poor is unlikely to take steps to attain substantial wealth. And the couple who plays it safe to ensure a comfortable lifestyle for the kids won’t take perceived risks to change their financial situation. … Continue Reading

Social Security is Worth the Wait

November 2, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy V. Smith

According to the Social Security Administration, more than nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.

Anyone considering retirement and drawing Social Security retirement benefits should have an understanding of how this important decision will affect his or her family and themselves. For someone whose full retirement age is 66, drawing benefits at age 62 permanently reduces an individual’s per year base benefit by 25 percent. While it is true that some people needed to retire, or found themselves in situations where the decision was made for them, it is more financially advantageous to wait. “If you wait, you will receive a guaranteed increase each year of seven to eight percent per year until you reach age 70,” says Raymond James Senior Tax and Estate Consultant Susan Hartman. … Continue Reading

Save a Fortune on Herbs and Spices

October 6, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Running Totals, Uncategorized Be the first to comment
money

By Cat Morris

We are coming into spice season. Mmmmmm! Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove come to mind as the weather begins to turn and the days get shorter. Now is a great time to clear out your old herbs and spices so you can start the cool weather season on a fresh, flavorful note.

If you’re like me, you never remember what you have in the cabinet, and often return from the store with a container of herbs or spices as insurance against being left short on a special recipe. I believe we all have that spice we can never recall seeing recently in the cupboard, and that spice, for me, is cinnamon. No matter that I possess pounds of the stuff: I inevitably find myself staring at grocery shelves, wondering, “Am I out of cinnamon?”

Now is the time to officially take inventory and update my holdings. In addition to lots of cinnamon, I admit to owning ancient jars of stuff I’ve barely touched. It hurts to think of tossing something for which I paid a pretty penny, and just possibly might need someday.

The good news is that since I first bought some of those ancient, pricey jars, I have discovered that quality herbs and spices are not expensive. In fact, if you have been buying your herbs and spices from a mainstream grocery store, as I used to; cease and desist: Supermarkets impose scandalously large mark-ups on spices. That .12 ounce jar of McCormick bay leaves that costs $3.99 at your favorite grocery store? The same quantity from a local health food store will set you back a whole 17 cents. Did that get your attention?

Let’s do some math:

As of this writing, McCormick bay leaves at one major grocery store cost $3.99 for a .12 ounce jar, which comes to $33.25 per ounce, or $532 per pound (not that you’d ever need a whole pound of bay leaves).

By contrast, Frontier brand bay leaves from the bulk section at Natural Mercantile of Hamilton cost about $1.21 per ounce, or $19.30 per pound. Yes, that would be a $512.70 price difference from the grocery store for a pound of the same product.

[Incidentally, if you were to actually need a whole pound of bay leaves, Costco sells a one-pound container for a whopping $6.40.]

Would you like another example? Ground cloves are priced between $6-8 dollars per ounce at one major grocery store right now. I found them elsewhere for $.86 per ounce. In a recent comparison shopping exercise, I found that I could replace one-ounce quantities of fifteen common herbs and spices for less than $14 total by buying them outside a supermarket, versus upwards of $60 at the supermarket.

Another fantastic, and often even less expensive, source for herbs and spices is ethnic food stores. Indian markets, or Mediterranean and Mexican grocers will have large quantities of excellent quality spices for a fraction of the cost at a mainstream grocery store.

Unless it’s a seasoning I use a lot, I prefer to buy herbs and spices from a health food store because I can purchase as little or as much as I like. I am charged only for what I take. If I need a larger quantity, I’ll hit a local ethnic store for high quality spices sold in larger amounts, and store them at home in pint sized mason jars. And of course, if you can use a pound or so of a seasoning (I can’t) warehouse stores such as Costco offer fantastic prices.

How long will your freshly purchased herbs and spices keep? The Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers indicates that dried herbs and ground spices will stay fresh at room temperature for six months, or one to two years in the freezer. Whole spices will last 1-2 years at room temperature and 2-3 years in the freezer. (Interestingly, the shelf life of ground mustard is reduced by chilling it, so always keep mustard at room temperature.) If you keep your spices at room temperature, keep them in a dry, dark location. Avoid storing them above your cook top, where their flavor will suffer from heat.

The best way to check the freshness of herbs and spices is to open the container, put some in your hands, and check for strong aroma, taste and color. Seasonings kept longer than recommended won’t hurt you, so don’t fret if your oregano is five years old. It won’t do harm, but it won’t have much taste, either.
I’d love to hear where you find the best bargains on herbs and spices in the area. Email me at Cat.Morris@earthlink.net or visit us online at brleader.com and leave your comment following my column.
In last month’s column I promised an article on extreme frugality. I spoke too soon. My apologies, but I couldn’t resist writing about getting great deals on herbs and spices first, what with holiday cooking right around the corner!

Market Volatility and Your Emotions

Amy Smith-BRL

“Market volatility: period when financial instrument prices fall quickly or go up by an unusual amount.” That’s a dictionary definition. Mine is more like the “I’m going to be sick” feeling that usually accompanies a roller coaster ride at my daughter’s favorite theme park. Unless you’ve not been checking your emails, reading newspapers, or watching television (a.k.a. “vacation”), you know it’s been a bumpy ride the last few weeks, and some financial experts say it might be like this for a while.

Here are some things you might want to consider before F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) kicks in:

  1. Don’t Panic: No matter how careful you are, you can neither predict nor control the future. No one has a crystal ball.
  2. Know what you own and why you own it: When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you originally made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold and whether a lower price might actually be a buying opportunity. It is individual stocks that determine the market, not vice versa. Buy value, not market trends or the economic outlook. … Continue Reading

Ten Ways You Can Save Money this Month

August 30, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Running Totals Be the first to comment
money

By Cat Morris
 
Think about this: Once you spend a dollar on a one-time-use item or experience, your dollar is gone forever.
 
When I buy paper goods to use at a barbecue, I exchange hard earned dollars for those paper goods, and as soon as the cups and plates hit the trash, the value of those goods, and the dollars I paid for them, is zero. Gone forever.
 
This is obvious, right?
 
Now think about this: When I buy a needed piece of furniture with my dollars, I spend hard earned dollars, but I continue to own the value of those dollars, in a sense, as long as I own and use the furniture. If I buy wisely, my furniture might even increase in value over time. … Continue Reading

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Sustainable Planet

Pungent Curry

9 Apr 2014

noerpel

The latest version of the IPCC report is published and once again it will go unread by the great masses of climate science deniers and unreported by the media. So it might be useful to revisit the fundamental physical realities …

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Ask Dr. Mike

Understanding Teen Suicide

1 Apr 2014

Michael_Pic

By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Northern Virginia has recently experienced several teen suicides. Last month, two Langley High School students took their own lives just a day apart from one another, and this month it appears two students at Woodson High …

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Virginia Gardening

Spring Is Coming

4 Mar 2014

springiscoming

By Donna Williamson March is an in-between month – some cold and the return of glorious warmth now and then. One way to bring some delight inside is forcing spring-blooming branches. You can cut branches of forsythia, cherry, crabapple, kerria, …

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Sushi's Corner

An Easter Swim

1 Apr 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.10.56 AM

I felt like a silly nim “cow” poop with these Easter bows in our hair. Okay Nelly, maybe you didn’t because you’re a girl. But me, a Mighty Cairn Terrier male? – PLEASE! Pleasing Mrs. B for Easter pictures was …

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Amy V. Smith's Money Talks

What Baseball Can Teach You About Financial Planning

1 Apr 2014

Amy Smith-BRL

Spring training is a tradition that baseball teams and baseball fans look forward to every year. No matter how they did last year, teams in spring training are full of hope that a new season will bring a fresh start. …

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Go Take a Hike

Blandy Experimental Farm

6 Jun 2012

Molly

By Molly Pinson Simoneau It’s no secret that I love a challenging hike. I’ve written here about hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. I’ve taken vacations with my family to Colorado where I’ve attempted to conquer a “fourteener” (a summit that is higher than 14,000 feet), …

(2 comments)

Real Estate Ticker

A Buying Opportunity?

6 Nov 2013

Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer As a direct result of the uncertainty that has arisen from national and regional politics, with its unsettling effect on the Northern Virginia area, for the past two months there has been a market slowdown which has …

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From the Farm

From the Farm

5 Jul 2012

From the Farm

When the heat index reaches 110 degrees, as it has been doing recently, I try to keep in the shade, or stay indoors. But my lavender, about halfway from full bloom, seems to thrive in it. Hot and dry, I …

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Events

April 2014
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: Art Gallery Reception for Featured Artists -- Abstract painter Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and contemporary painter Sandra Iafrate

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April 12, 2014N/A

Meet Evelyn and Sandra and other gallery artists during a free, open to the public reception for this month's Featured Artists' exhibit "Living Color,” showcasing two accomplished painters Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and Sandra Iafrate, in a vivid and dynamic presentation of color, shape and our surroundings.

Evelyn Lopez de Guzman’s vibrant paintings awaken the viewer to connect with nature and the modern world through an interplay of shape, color, and textural materials.

Sandra Iafrate’s combination of realistic and surrealist interpretation of flowers, foliage and landscapes on spacious canvases convey a sense of movement and playfulness.

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Easter at "The Park"

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April 19, 2014

Celebrate Easter at historic Morven Park with crafts for kids, an egg hunt in the formal gardens plus a traditional egg roll on the Davis Mansion lawn. Have a family photo taken with the Easter Bunny. Children should bring a basket for the hunt and a large spoon for the egg roll. $10/participating child (ages 2-12), $3/adult. Register at www.MorvenPark.org.

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VAL's Pals Kids Club

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April 30, 2014

Join Inova Loudoun Hospital as the present their Beamer the Dog Program.

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SCOUTING FOR BRICKS

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May 4, 2014

Scouting for Bricks is an exhibit showing the Love for everything LEGO® . Come see amazing LEGO® creations by Fans of LEGO®, LEGO® trains, Mindstorms robots. We will also have live Star Wars Stormtroopers and an interactive play area with over 100,000 LEGO bricks. Scouting for Bricks is fun for the Whole Family! Visit us at www.ScoutingForBricks.com.

Recent Comments

View From the Ridge

Rural Loudoun Is Different, and We Say Dark Skies Do Matter

4 Mar 2014

viewfromridge

In February of this year a sell out crowd gathered at the county public seat in Leesburg to provide feedback to the Loudoun County Planning Commission on the idea of adding additional sports lights to the upper athletic fields at Franklin Park. Franklin Park includes a really wonderful performing arts …

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Editorial

Steady and Nobull

4 Mar 2014

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Park and Ride Lots for Western Loudoun

4 Mar 2014

Jim_Burton_cropped

In 2003, the county purchased 22 commuter buses to serve a growing demand for bus service to Washington D.C. The demand has grown exponentially ever since. The county now owns or leases 65 large commuter buses (with plush seats and on board restrooms) and more are being added every year. The buses are often filled to standing room only as …

(2 comments)

Lifestyle

Sadie’s Race 5K and Fun Run Scheduled for Sunday May 18

9 Apr 2014

sadiestart

Sadie Smile Foundation is putting on the third annual Sadie’s Race/Walk and Kids Fun Run to Benefit Smile Train in Purcellville Sunday, May 18th this year. The race starts at 8:00 a.m. at the train station at 200 N 21st Street in Purcellville. Sign up at Active.com. When Sara Ablard lost her five year-old daughter, Sadie, two years ago, she …

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Dr. Joseph Rogers Dies at Family Farm

1 Apr 2014

Dr. Joseph Megeath Rogers, 90, died on Saturday March 8, 2014 at his Hillbrook Farm near Hamilton following a stroke. Physician, farmer, businessman, rural land conservationist, philanthropist and expert horseman, Dr. Rogers was a tireless advocate and practitioner of country living whose contributions in a broad range of interests were made quietly and with little fanfare. His public persona was …

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Zoldos Presented Citizen of the Year Award

1 Apr 2014

Mayor_Zoldos_Citizen_of_Year_Award

At the biweekly March meeting of the Lovettsville Town Council, Mayor Bobby Zoldos was presented the 2013 Citizen of the Year from the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans. Presenting the award was Rick Adams, current president along with Board Member Peter Mullally and  Vice President Jeff Boogaard. Adams said, “On behalf of the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans, we would like to present the …

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Around Virginia

Wolf Won’t Seek Re-election

Frank_wolf

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) today announced that he would not seek election to an 18th term in 2014. He released the following statement announcing his decision: “I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern …

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Virginia Can and Should Work Harder to Combat Hunger

Frank_wolf

By Congressman Frank Wolf Last year, the USDA reported a record number of Americans are struggling to put food on their tables. Across the nation, 49 million people – including 17 million children and six million seniors – are going hungry, a number that has grown substantially over the last …

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Kaine Statement on Navy Yard Shooting

Kaine

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by today’s tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. As we learn more about the horrific events that unfolded this morning, my deepest sympathies go out …

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Sports

Nominate Your Hometown Hero

9 Apr 2014

ulll

Upper Loudoun Little League’s Hometown Heroes scholarship closes on April 21, 2014. The application is available online at ULLL.org. The scholarship is open to all graduating seniors who played baseball for ULLL at some point in their growing up years.

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Lady Vikings Give Back

10 Feb 2014

The Loudoun Valley Girls basketball team held an event on Friday, February 7 at LVHS. The Lady Vikings celebrated “Pink Night” by honoring those who are battling breast cancer or have been affected by breast cancer. The event was held in conjunction with an event held at Woodgrove earlier this …

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Letters

Medicaid Expansion Battle Heating Up

4 Mar 2014

blueridge2

Did you know that there’s a very real possibility that a DC-style budget battle and government shutdown could come to Virginia? The Medicaid expansion battle …

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Endorsing for Profit Businesses?

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

I recently received an automated email message from the Town of Purcellville soliciting nominations for volunteer award recipients in cooperation with the Purcellville Business Association …

(2 comments)

Another Vote To Overrule Purcellville’s Board of Architectural Review

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

The Purcellville Town Council, foolishly, in the view of many and perhaps most, has overruled its Board of Architectural Review and approved Mark Nelis’s and …

(3 comments)

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