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Halifax County supes hold tax rates steady – except for meals / April 08, 2021

Halifax County’s tax rates will remain steady in the coming fiscal year with the exception of its food and beverage tax, which will rise from 4 cents to 6 cents, matching the rate in the Town of South Boston.

The Board of Supervisors voted Monday night to keep the county’s real estate tax rate at 50 cents per $100 in value, agreeing with the unanimous recommendation of its finance committee to leave the tax on homes, farms and property tracts untouched.

Supervisors had previously voted not to change the personal property tax rate, assessed on cars, boats and other items, and the machine and tools tax rate.

“We received a tremendous amount of pressure” not to raise county taxes after the hardships of the past year, said finance committee chairman Jeff Francisco, ED-2. “I’m very proud we got through this with no increase in tax rates at all.”

Supervisors had advertised a 2-cent increase in the 50-cent real estate tax, anticipating that the additional revenue might be needed to fill in half-million gap in the school budget. When the state of Virginia mandated that Halifax County raise its local budget contribution for K-12 education to $14,243,414 — higher than the $13,730,322 allocation that supervisors had previously built into the budget — the proposed tax increase seemed unavoidable.

But the county subsequently learned that it was in line to receive an extra $250,000 in revenue from higher-than-anticipated sales tax collections, which, together with monies taken from a one-time school budget surplus, was sufficient to close the shortfall without a tax increase.

Supervisors did agree, however, to raise one county tax — on food and beverages, paid by restaurants and convenience stores and passed onto consumers. Halifax County’s new rate is 6 cents on every dollar spent by local diners.

The rate matches that in the Town of South Boston. The action comes on the heels of action by the General Assembly earlier this year to allow counties to match the food and beverage taxes imposed by surrounding towns and cities.

ED-5 supervisor Dean Throckmorton said he ordinarily opposes tax increases but supports a higher food and beverage tax because dining out is optional, not a necessity.

“If they’re dining out in South Boston they’re already paying it. This just puts the county on an even playing field with South Boston,” Throckmorton said.

The higher levy is expected to bring in about $140,000 annually for the county.

In addition to approving tax rates for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1, supervisors also agreed Monday to enact the fiscal year budget of $116 million.

The budget provides a four percent pay hike for county staff, an additional $2,000 salary supplement for employees of the 911 emergency call center, and money for fire and rescue department needs.

Supervisors adopted the budget by an 8-0 vote, and separately agreed unanimously to fund the school budget, specifying that local monies will be allocated by budget category, not as a lump sum. The School Board had asked that the budget be approved and funded by category.

Also at their regular monthly meeting on Monday night, supervisors adopted a zoning amendment that paves the way for Planned Use Developments (PUDs) in Halifax County. The mixed use, commercial and residential developments have spurred growth in the Richmond area, and county officials say the same could happen in Halifax County.

A North Carolina development firm has proposed building a PUD community in Alton near Virginia International Raceway. The proposed project calls for the construction of residential housing units, a hotel or motel and a Food Lion grocery store.

“As staff, we’re pretty excited about the development of this ordinance [for Planned Use Developments],” said County Planner Detrick Easley.

Supervisors also accepted a recommendation by the Halifax County Planning Commission to allow for a greater density of land used by solar generation facilities. County code limits solar developers from taking up more than 2.5 percent of land in a five-mile radius for their generation projects. The revised ordinance allows developers to build arrays on up to 5 percent of land in a five-mile radius.

The change is intended to allow for more solar projects in the county while preserving a density requirement to stave off overdevelopment. Former county supervisor J.T. Davis, speaking during the citizen comment portion of the meeting, said the easing of the density requirement is needed to attract more solar projects and the taxes and fees they bring to the county.

Citing the expected closure of the Clover Power Plant sometime in the next few years, Davis said the board was wise to encourage more solar projects other than the half-dozen that have been approved so far. “We’re going to have to get some revenue to replace [the Clover plant]. Of all the projects we have, solar is the only one that can do that,” he said.

Supervisors also approved a revenue-sharing arrangement with prospective solar developers to replace the property taxes they would otherwise pay on solar panels, arrays, equipment and other assets. Because those levies are reduced by state tax exemptions for the development of renewable energy, the money that Halifax County can expect to receive through the revenue sharing agreements will be higher.

The board also heard from Jay Craddock with VDOT about the work under way to improve Route 501-N at the area near Younger’s Store. The work involves lowering the intersection of Routes 501 and 610 by 14 feet — “the biggest project the county has seen in this area in a good while,” said Craddock.

After the initial phase of the project, set to end around May, work will commence on the second phase, and one-lane travel on 501 will go into effect. Initially, southbound traffic on 501 will be detoured on a loop along 610, then, as work later shifts to the other lane of 501, northbound traffic will be diverted along 610 to get around the road reconstruction.

The entire project is scheduled to be complete in May 2023, said Craddock.

Craddock also invited supervisors to prioritize which county roadways they would like to see added to VDOT’s Six Year Improvement Plan. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the Six Year Plan in May.

Board priorities include improvements to John Puryear Trail, White Oak Trail, Clements Trail, Clays Mill School Road, Milner Lane, Wild Turkey Run, Chaffin Trail, Walker Trail, Crossroads Trail, Shelton Road, White Lane and Talley Loop.

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