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Halifax County draft budget: Little revenue, unmet needs / March 08, 2018
Halifax County Administrator Jim Halasz has made public a draft budget for the county that holds tax rates steady but leaves many departments short of money in the upcoming fiscal year.

The $94 million draft budget calls for a 1.3 percent rise in spending — about $1.25 million — but falls far short of the amount that the School Board is seeking and includes an outright $10,000 cut in the library budget, which Library Director Jay Stephens warned could trigger a $125,500 reduction in state and federal library funding.

Halasz’s budget proposal also anticipates that the county will recoup $93,000 in revenue that now goes towards supporting Ag-Forestal Districts (AFDs). The tax-advantaged farm districts are due to expire in December.

Describing the draft plan in a letter to the Board of Supervisors, Halasz noted the budget is balanced and contains no increase in tax rates, but it does include a $10 annual increase in the county’s refuse fee. Currently $50, the fee would go to $60 under the budget plan.

That fee increase, noted Halasz, will generate an additional $135,000 in revenue.

Responding to the budget proposal, the finance committee of the Board of Supervisors suggested that it may be necessary to raise the county’s real estate tax rate by a penny, from 48 cents to 49 cents per $100 in value. Such a tax increase would bring in almost $400,000 in added revenue.

Halasz advised supervisors that the county is struggling with a downward trend in real property values, leaving Halifax with little prospect of claiming more revenue through growth. Aside from the $93,000 that would come with discontinuing ag-forestal districts and $135,000 from higher refuse fees, Halasz said the only revenue gains would come from taxes on state regulated utility facilities ($110,000) and building permits for solar facilities ($150,000).

County-funded and county-supported departments and agencies sought a cumulative increase of $4.178 million in the budget.

The School Board, which says it needs $2.1 million in new funding, is in line for a $764,681 increase — with only $159,000 of that coming from the county. The remainder would come from state and federal funding sources.

The draft budget includes an increase of $122,865 for the Sheriff’s Office, which will allow for the replacement of five vehicles and hiring of two additional full-time deputies, along with some equipment and training funds.

Funding for local volunteer fire departments is set to rise by $49,780, and ambulance and rescue services are in line for a $36,325 increase.

The budget for the operation of the Blue Ridge Regional Jail also rose by $326,618, based on the number of prisoners housed at the facility.

The Southside Community Services Board is set to receive an additional $10,000, which still leaves the county short of required state funding levels.

Ag Development is in line to receive $17,972 more for the coming year, and the Department of Social Services also is getting a $54,530 increase.

The draft budget includes $251,004 in new funding for the 911 Dispatch Center, which will go towards the purchase of new microwave wireless communications equipment to lessen the need for hard line telephone services.

Also, the draft budget calls for a two percent pay increase for all full-time county employees, at an annual cost of $125,000. Halasz stated he was happy to report that health care premiums for county employees are set to rise by only 6 percent — roughly $85,000 — in the coming budget year, compared a 12 percent-plus increase at the same time last year.

The new budget must be approved in time to take effect July 1. It will run through June 30 of the following year.

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Sorry, there should be cuts all across the board. The school system with dropping enrollment should be cut not given more money. We don't need 2 new deputies, with a declining population how can you justify this? Five new cars?!?!?! Sorry run the ones you got till you can't repair them anymore. Ag department, that is a waste as well. I can see a raise but this can be accomplished with cuts in other areas.

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