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Halifax County budget panel recommends two cent real estate tax increase

SoVaNow.com / February 20, 2014
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors’ budget committee agreed Wednesday to ask for a 2 cent hike in the real estate tax rate for the coming year, which would raise Halifax’s levy to 47 cents per $100 in value.

The recommendation, which will go to the full board for approval, is somewhat higher than the half-cent that supervisors would need to add to the tax rate to maintain the current level of property tax revenues. The adjustment would compensate for a 1 percent drop in real estate values with the new Halifax County property reassessment.

Members of the supervisors’ Finance Committee stressed that the proposed 47 cent tax rate that will be advertised and presented to the full board represents a ceiling: the advertised rate can be lowered by the board, but not raised without going through a new public hearing process.

The need for a higher tax rate is three-fold, the committee advised. Besides the half-cent increase to maintain current revenues, the county government will need another half-cent hike to finance the Courthouse renovation project. The remaining cent to be added to the rate would go towards paying for general budget needs.

The committee, headed by supervisor Doug Bowman, recommended flat funding of $13 million for the county school division, largest entity of local government. The School Board has requested a $3 million boost, citing the need to overcome budget cuts in recent years.

County Administration Jim Halasz said that in January, the finance committee and county staff reviewed department requests line by line, and with only a few exceptions, all will be recommended for level funding in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The new budget takes effect July 1.

Halasz added that he and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson recently had what he described as a very good meeting with school personnel to discuss their budget needs, but advised them at that time that the request for an additional $3 million would not be met.

Bowman noted at yesterday’s panel meeting that the $13 million county contribution to the schools comes on top of $5 million in debt service that the Board pays for school construction — evidence of the Board’s support for education, he said.

Halasz observed that the supervisors and school officials will work together well and seek ways to consolidate other operations to achieve savings.

Supervisors on the finance committee — Bowman, Larry Giardano, joined by Supervisor Barry Bank — yesterday listened as Halasz and Jackson went through projections for revenues and expenses with the upcoming FY2015 budget.

“These are very preliminary figures,” stressed Bowman after reviewing both the revenues and expenses.

Jackson advised that staff’s budget recommendations, which have not yet been finalized, remain about $95,000 out of balance, even after adding an estimated $90,000 in additional projected revenues.

Jackson said she expects to see some $300,000 more coming into the county from its tax on public service corporations. But on the flip side, she also predicted that Halifax County would experience a $90,000 loss in sales tax revenues. She added that revenues from business license taxes are likely to drop.

Jackson said Halifax County has little wiggle room for generating additional revenues since much of its income comes from fees already is at the level allowed by state law (examples include vehicles decals and business licenses). She explained that the only way to generate significant new revenues is to raise real estate and personal property taxes.

The Finance Committee agreed to recommend to the full board at its March 3 meeting that the real estate tax rate for next year will be advertised at 47 cents per $100, up from the current year’s 45 cents. The half-cent increase for the Courthouse project would be used to finance a $2.7 million loan, which will pay for renovations to the Administration Building to prepare it for future use by the Sheriff’s Department, and for the renovation of the Mary Bethune Industrial Arts Building, which will be used as a temporary location for the courts once the courthouse renovation project begins.

Committee members asked Halasz and Jackson to examine carefully some of the requests which are not mandated but which the county has filled over past years and report their findings back to them. One in particular was a request from the Recreation Committee to renovate the bathrooms in the Mary Bethune gymnasium.

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Comments

Does this committee not know you can cut? I can't believe that we allowed activist judges in this county to make us redo the court house. A law was passed that they can't do this anymore or so I was told by James Edmunds. So intead of raising taxes, when peoples incomes are down, the county needs to cut spending even more. I would say a 5% reduction across the board would do it. I would also say fire the finance director and make the county admin. guy do this job again

Comments

Halifax County BOS has no conservative on it. They do not understand that this welfare county has only about 50% of the citizens who suffer the burden of all of the tax load. Last I saw, Larry G didn't even have a job. The finance girl should have been fired but Halifax hires loosers. A real shame.Sad to say but they have finally gotten to Banks, sorry Scottsburg.


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