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Halifax County Chamber preps rollout of sales tax pitch / August 29, 2019
If Labor Day marks the start of the campaign season, then the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce should be right on time with its opening pitch to county voters asking them to approve the November sales tax referendum.

Chamber President Mitzi McCormick said the business organization is almost ready to launch a campaign on behalf of the proposed 1-cent sales tax after members of the Chamber board voted unanimously to embrace the effort on Wednesday. A separate committee will meet today to decide on a campaign slogan.

“We have a campaign and we’re developing the marketing materials as we speak,” said McCormick.

The Chamber will print up yard signs and brochures, roll out a website and videos, deploy a speakers bureau to spread the pro-sales tax message to civic and community groups, and pursue other opportunities to “educate folks on what this means for the community,” said McCormick.

“It’s a gift to us,” she said of the sales tax, which is expected to generate $3.3 million in annual revenue to upgrade Halifax County High School. “Part of this will be exploring what can be done with the tax, and what it can do for our community.

“We’ll hit the ground running next week,” McCormick said.

Prominent among the arguments that the Chamber will use in the campaign are the ones already cited by members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and School Board in supporting a sales tax. It would lessen the need to saddle property tax payers with the full cost of paying for school improvements. Also, some share of the money would flow in from outside Halifax County, paid by people who shop for items locally as they pass through.

The sales tax will not apply to certain exempted categories of goods — notably, grocery items and prescription drugs. It also will not be levied on vehicle purchases. Those items are taxed separately, with levies other than the state’s 5.3 cent retail sales tax, which the local tax would piggyback.

If approved by voters, a local option sales tax for school capital improvements would be the first of its kind in Virginia. The idea was championed by Del. James Edmunds in this year’s General Assembly session, and his bill passed both houses of the legislature after Edmunds added an amendment to limit the scope to Halifax County.

The legislation specifies that final approval is up to county voters, who will decide via referendum in the Nov. 5 election.

The wording of the ballot question asks voters to approve the 1-cent sales tax with revenue “used solely for capital projects for the construction or renovation of schools in Halifax County” — language that leaves unresolved whether the high school should be rebuilt from scratch, as the School Board favors, or renovated, as some supervisors have indicated they favor.

McCormick said the Chamber is not taking a position on the matter of new-vs.-renovated.

“We need the sales tax regardless of what happens. I think what we look forward to is getting through this and the community deciding [what to do],” she said.

“I really think our community will rally together to support this.”

Before deciding to lend its voice towards passage of the sales tax, the Chamber expressed its support for making dramatic improvements to HCHS. That was a major plank of the Community Strategic Report, which calls for upgrading educational opportunity in Halifax County and identifies the dilapidated high school as an obstacle to that goal.

The Chamber effort is being funded in part with money provided by the Town of South Boston and the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority. The county Board of Supervisors has not contributed, McCormick said.

While some candidates for local office have been waging their campaigns for months, McCormick said she isn’t worried about the Chamber waiting until September to gear up a campaign to pass a referendum that will be voted on in early November.

She said a representative with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the state’s chief agency for business recruitment and liaison, offered a piece of advice for the timing of a public outreach campaign: “His point to us was don’t start too early,” McCormick said. “People get tired of hearing things over and over and over.”

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How much is this campaign costing taxpayers?! I don't care who is footing the bill for this, it is ALL tax dollars when it comes right down to it. Now they are using taxpayer funds in a brainwashing campaign to sway voters into believing that this is a solution to fund a nearly $100 million dollar school. All of the costs so far released to the public are absurd and too high. Perform regular daily/yearly maintenance, fix or replace the antiquated systems such as HVAC, pressure wash the building (which i have NEVER seen done in the last 40 yrs), replace the loose bricks on the facade, install new flooring, and make the building ADA accessible at one central location. This work could be done much cheaper that what is being presented to the taxpaying public. Between this costly campaign and the second study the BOS funded we are talking about a lot of wasteful spending in an effort to increase taxation.


Allpolitical2 and concerned taxpayer-do you two negative all the time citizens have children or grandchildren at the high school or who will attend the school in the future?? We will wait to see if you have the backbone to answer this question!!!


@JoeBlow the answer is YES, and if you feel that trying to educate the general public on the wastefulness of this local government is negative then so be it. A high dollar shiny building does NOT equal a quality education. The point I have tried to make all along is there is NO regular maintenance and upkeep performed on the HCHS and for that matter all of the other public educational facilities. By the logic put forth by the school system, everyone in the county should just neglect their own homes and elect to bulldoze and replace with brand new. Holding the local governing bodies accountable to those who fund these projects and improvements is needed. I certainly don't want my children and their children burdened with a 20 yr sales tax.


Allpolitical2 and concerned taxpayer, where did you two earn your engineering degrees? Are you licensed contractors? Your simple fixes are not cheap or financially sound in the long run. My bother-in-law, who has his degree and is a licensed contractor AND has been supervisor on new state of the art school builds and major university building builds, has toured the school and he agrees that there is not a simple, economical fix/touch up that can be done on the high school. New HVAC alone would be close to 30% of the cost of a new building. ADA cannot be achieved by making one entrance accessible. Unfortunately, in this county lack of knowledge seems to make you an expert. Please remember, voters put the officials in place. Don't like it, run against them.


I stand by my viewpoint but refer you to the following from experts in the field of engineering: 2017 B & B Consultants study/estimates of approximately $78 million for a new high school, $20 million for a renovation and $6 million for a new stadium. For details, see the Gazette-Virginian from April 11, 2017. Also from Letter to the Editor- Questions to ask by Jack Dunnavant. "Daily maintenance, cleaning etc., seemed adequate but general physical maintenance seemed to be very poor. From an engineering perspective I saw nothing that would justify demolition of any part of that building." So there you have it from two reputable engineers, there is no need for a new 100 million dollar HCHS, renovation is a very viable solution. This low income area cannot support a 20 year sales tax increase among all the other increases that have already been made in Real Estate and Personal Property taxes.


Really? A business organization advocating for higher taxes is like Satan advocating daily Bible study. This is the height of insanity. At this very moment you all are renovating a brick building built in 1839 while demanding to raze another brick building built in 1979. People live in homes more than 40 years old. One of the reasons given for closing all the elementary schools was you couldn't afford to maintain them. Apparently you can't afford to maintain the high school either and so what's your solution? Well naturally we need to build a $100 million new school. You go to Richmond and beg the politicians to raise your taxes. Imagine their shock. The only thing more surprising is that Richmond hasn't yet fenced this county in and declared it an insane asylum.


Great points all political-crazy taxpayer and crazy times- you are dead nuts on. They did a study in 2017 I remember it well.
They are not even trying to pressure wash the exterior of the high school. It might look clean and we cant have that when we need a new school. An insider told me there is NO WAY possible that a new school with a big stadium can be built for less than $150 million and that the BOS will follow the same courthouse fiasco with allowing cost over runs to make up the difference due to " unexpected complexities". When it's known NOW that the $100mil is way low and is not inclusive of all expected costs. This is how the BOS does the old nut drag out here. SAY NO to 1 cent tax. BOS should be taking care of what we have. Think about all the federal/state and local taxes you pay including all sales taxes. add it up.


Your insider should go visit Mecklenburg County where they are building a new middle school, high school, and athletic fields for $115 million which is $35 million less than your insider suggests.


Concerned Taxpayer-The attitude and bad logic that you and your lieutenants espouse are the same attitudes and objections that were presented to defeat the building of the current high school. So, some things have not changed in the past 40 years. Pitiful!!!


Concerned, what all was proposed by B&B in their low estimate? According to Mosley and OWPR, the cost to replace HVAC, plumbing & electric "many of them original to the building — accounts for roughly $28.5 million of the total project budget." Also, you are counting a local "engineer" with, to my knowledge has never built or renovated a school, as an expert, but who is clearly jaded to the idea and could be basing his "expert" opinion on personal feelings. You provide two sources for not having to spend money, but so far there have been 2 studies done and 3 companies who say something must be done and all 3 say it would be foolish to renovate instead of build new.


Joe- see the news that the Courthouse costs are now $30 million? You ought to keep silent on matters that you do not have adequate information nor experience. The high school cannot be built for less than $200 million when all costs are included.


So now people are saying $200 million for a new high school when our neighbors to the East are buying land, rerunning fiber optics, moving a cemetery, widening a road, running sewer and water lines, building all new sports fields, an ag facility, middle school and high school that will house the same number of HS students as Halifax and they are getting it done for $115 million. Also, one of the firms in the running for the contract here reportedly recently built a high school of the same enrollment capacity in the Raleigh area for under $70 million.


Mecklenburg County hasn't quite yet acccomplished "getting it done for $115 million" yet. The project has not even been put out to bid and already there is going to be a year delay in their own timetable.
Here's a few quotes from the meeting: "During the Supervisors comment session of the meeting, the subject came up again with Jim Jennings pointing out that “Fifteen months ago I said this was going to cost us $140 million.” Nichols replied that he could not comment.
“We may have to go back into our pockets,” agreed Chairman Barbour."
Projects in Halifax County take on a life of their own and have cost overruns due to the lack of leadership and experience at the Adminstration level, the Courthouse fiaso is proof of that.
Facts here not FAKE NEWS - I refer you to the following article so you can read and educate yourself.


I read the article and now it is time to educate you. Quote from the article you provided " architects for the plan have explained that because of an uptick in building projects, some materials are hard to find. In some cases, they said, finding crews to do the work is also difficult." Also the project would still be finished during the 21-22 school year, but they cannot merge schools at the point due to personnel contracts. A "year delay" in your words is TWISTED NEWS. Completion timeline has not been delayed a year.

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