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Halifax County supes nix tax hike, set school funding

SoVaNow.com / April 04, 2013
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors voted Monday night not to raise the county’s 45-cent real estate tax rate, thereby denying a request from school officials for additional money to close holes in their budget.

The vote against a tax hike was 8-0.

Going into the meeting, the supervisors had received a recommendation by its finance committee to raise the rate by 2 cents, with one cent of the new revenue earmarked for the Halifax Courthouse renovation project, and the rest going to the schools and other departments facing budget cuts. Each penny increase in the real estate tax generates about $359,000.

Supervisor Barry Bank introduced a motion to leave the tax rate at 45 cents and it passed unanimously — with finance committee members J.T. Davis, William Fitzgerald and panel chairman Doug Bowman joining the rest of the board in rejecting the proposed 2 cent hike.

Bowman told fellow supervisors on Monday that he was not pressing them on what they should do, but pointed out renovations must be made to the Courthouse, noting that requests for proposals for the architectural and engineering design went out this week. He added it is going to be an expensive undertaking for the county.

One cent of the proposed tax hike would have been dedicated to courthouse work under the finance panel’s recommendation. Most of the rest of the money — $240,000 — would have gone to the schools.

However, strong opposition among other Board members doomed the recommendation, and the increase of the real estate tax was not brought to a vote.

In addition to holding the real estate tax at the current rate, supervisors also left unchanged the $3.60 per $100 value rate for personal property taxes, and the $1.26 rate for the machinery and tools tax.

Although the Board rejected the proposed tax increase, members approved fee hikes which are estimated to raise an additional $656,000 in the coming fiscal year. Many of those fees, according to Bowman, have not been increased for 20 years.

Motor vehicle license fees will rise to $40.75 from the current $25, motorcycles license fees go to $28.75 from the current $5, and dog tags will go from $5 to $10.

Other fee increases cover the use of animal shelter services, as well as business licenses. Some fees are increasing by as much as 400 percent.

Supervisors also approved their contribution of $13,267,529 to the local school system on a 7-1 vote. Only ED#1 supervisor J. T. Davis opposed the contribution level, which was recommended by County Administrator Jim Halasz.

Davis noted that the Prismatic school efficiency study shows Halifax County is not offering competitive salaries to teachers. The study ranked the local division at the bottom of the scale among five neighboring school systems in terms of teacher salaries.

Davis said he knew of teachers who have gone to Pittsylvania and Campbell counties because of higher salaries there and worried that Halifax may lose some of its best teachers. “If we don’t find money for salaries, we may be taking a step backward.”

ED#6 supervisor Wayne Conner pointed out that Halifax County is paying more per student than in years past, but he noted that the school system has lost 7 percent of its student population from 2011 to 2014. He suggested that some schools may have to be closed if the number of students continues to drop.

In other matters, supervisors further approved a memorandum of understanding with the school system which will allow the county to use Halifax County Middle School as its designated emergency shelter. The gymnasium at the Mary Bethune Complex has been the emergency shelter, but it was found that the facility no longer meets the needs for community sheltering since it has no food preparation area, no emergency power back-up and is too small to shelter a large number of evacuees for a long period of time.

Also, attempting to help County Treasurer Linda Foster collect delinquent taxes, supervisors approved a resolution to withhold certain building permits, zoning permits and land use permits including erosion and sediment control permits until all delinquent taxes are paid.

The Board will also hold a public hearing during their May 6 meeting on a proposed amendment to the County Code which requires that all real estate taxes be paid before a business license can be issued.

Supervisors received a request to give the L. E. Coleman African-American Museum a tax exemption since it is a 501(c) non-profit organization. The Board set a public hearing on the matter for their May meeting which must be held before a tax exemption can be granted.

Supervisors also authorized County Administrator Halasz to take initial action and submit the necessary applications and documents to allow the county to apply and participate in the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Loan Program to finance the debt service on the Courthouse renovations. Halasz pointed to the favorable interest rate offered by USDA on loans made for up to 40 years.

In other business, County Planner Robbie Love asked the board to set a public hearing for its May 6 meeting on a request from George A. Anderson to withdraw a 30.42 acre parcel from the Rodgers Chapel Road Agricultural/Forestral District in order that he can subdivide the property.

Following the public meeting, several citizens commented to the Board with Mrs. Fay Satterfield reminding them of the coming visit of the Traveling Vietnam Veterans Wall which has the names of 14 Halifax County veterans on it. The wall will arrive at Halifax County Middle School, she said, on April 9 and will be open to the public, free of charge, after it is set up. A formal ceremony is set for Thursday, April 11 at 10 a.m. and it will close on Sunday, April 14.

Bernard Mitzler questioned supervisors about a past program that he thought should provide some funding for the Courthouse renovations, and he urged them to follow the Efficiency Study that calls for the closure of two small elementary schools.

School Board Chairman Kim Farson reminded the board and those present that Halifax County schools provide many advantages for the children of the county, with many leaving high school with college credits already completed. She also praised local teachers, adding that the School Board is very anxious to be able to give them a much-deserved salary increase.

And while it is easy to talk about closing schools, she added, the children in many cases need the smaller schools where they get more one-on-one attention.

Ida Terry told Supervisors she has a problem with giving more money to the schools. “You just paid $250,000 for an efficiency study which they are not following. When you cut, don’t cut those people who working in the cafeteria or cleaning the floors, who don’t make much money ($7.000 or $8,000), cut those at the top who are making $150,000,” Terry told the board.

Supervisor Barry Bank introduced a motion to leave the tax rate at 45 cents and it passed unanimously — with finance committee members J.T. Davis, William Fitzgerald and panel chairman Doug Bowman joining the rest of the board in rejecting the proposed 2 cent hike.



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Comments

The attitude of the Board og Spervisors toward education has not change in 40 years--Obviously it will not change!!!

Comments

The board did the right thing. Now the school board needs to. The school board is just trying to find money for the law suit they are going to loose. Why get rid of Stapleton when you get one worse? Also why does she need 151k . I also wish the papers would find out what her 8000 bonus was for

Comments

Any way u figure it Dr.H has gotten more than 2% since arriving! It is like the board is saying they don't care what anyone thinks!! And citizens sit idly by and approve by their silence!! Someone may owe the previous administration an apology!!!!!

Comments

Hey ya'll I thought the food tax was supposed to make sure we did not get any more tax increases, on anything, according to Nick Long and the Halifax County (Tax) Farm Bureau???????


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