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Halifax County Supes reduce planned tax hike

SoVaNow.com / May 09, 2013
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors on Monday held off making a decision on how to apply $593,000 in unspent funds in next year’s budget — although the supervisors did halve a proposed increase in the local BPOL (Business and Professional Occupations Licenses) tax.

“We don’t want to seem insensitive to small businesses, and there are a lot of them in this county,” said Finance Chairman Doug Bowman in moving to reduce the proposed rate hike by 50 percent.

The cut lowers the projected additional revenue next year from the BPOL tax from $167,000 to $83,500.

That, however, was the only action supervisors took with the pending budget, which goes in effect July 1. The supervisors declined to act on a finance committee recommendation on divvying up $593,000 in available funds — which the panel proposed to split among the schools, the Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies.

Bowman declined to press the matter, saying there was no point in making a motion in the face of certain defeat.

“I understand from talking with others that there is not enough support from this board to even bring the recommendations up for a vote,” he said.

On April 24, the finance panel, on a 2-1 vote, recommended that $152,420 be set aside to pay for the relocation costs of the Sheriff’s Department, which will need to relocate prior to the demolition of the old jail portion of the Courthouse complex.

The committee also called for setting aside $150,000 for the school system; $50,000 for the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority; and $50,000 to pay for architectural and engineering studies to run water/sewer lines to the fairgrounds property.

Another $50,000 was recommended as a down payment of a front end loader refuse truck, and $26,000 would go towards a second set of personal protective gear for fire department members.

The panel called for using the remaining $31,080 to restore earlier cuts to the YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, Longwood Small Business Center, South Boston/Halifax County Museum, Roanoke River Basin Association and the local Rails to Trails.

The $593,000 was first identified by County Adminstrator Jim Halasz from three main sources — $180,000 in higher-than-expected sales tax revenues, $70,000 in lower-than-expected health care costs, and $343,000 in savings from the operation of the Blue Ridge Regional Jail.

Board members offered no further comment on the allocation of the funds, although ED#3 Supervisor William Fitzgerald wanted to know if the board would take any action on extra funding for the schools. Fitzgerald, also a finance panel member, voted in committee against the plan to allocate the additional funds, saying he would not support more money for the schools.

The supervisors have until the end of June to approve the proposed $87.2 million county budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

In other business, supervisors set a special meeting for Monday, May 20 at 6:30 p.m. to review the top bids for architectural and engineering design work for the renovation of the historic Halifax County Courthouse. At this time, the board is expected to approve negotiations between County Administrator Halasz and the leading bidders after members of the Buildings and Grounds Committee rank the top three offers. It is hoped that Halasz can then negotiate a contract with the winning firm by the board’s June 3 regular meeting.

Supervisors also approved a resolution confirming the health insurance program with Anthem, for which the county will pay $614 per month for eligible employees in the Key Care 25 program and $632 per month for participants in the Key Care 30 Plan.

The Board also approved two additional events for scheduling at Virginia International Raceway, the first being the Camping World Truck Series set for Aug. 6 and 7. The second event is the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East which is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24.

Earlier during their Monday night meeting, supervisors approved the removal of a 30 acre tract from the Rodgers Chapel Road Agricultural and Forestal District which was requested by George Anderson. Anderson said he wants to sell the lot to his niece so she can build a house on the land.

The board also approved an exemption from the payment of $144 in real estate taxes for the L.E. Coleman Museum. Halasz noted that tax exemptions had already been granted to the South Boston museum as well as to Ruritan clubs throughout the county.

Following the first public hearing, which focused on the withholding of the issuance of business licenses to those firms owing real estate taxes, the board delayed action until Halasz and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson can meet with Treasurer Linda Foster to work out a satisfactory payment plan for taxpayers who are unable to pay the full amount of their delinquencies.

Bowman suggested the delay, noting that the board needs to knows what type of payment plan the treasurer can offer before finalizing the ordinance.

Several citizens commented on assorted issues following the meeting. The Rev. Kevin Chandler suggested that the board should re-establish its race relations committee. Chandler said he remembered a previous such committee and said there is still a need for one. He questioned county hiring and firing practices, noting that the NAACP has a committee that would be willing to work with the supervisors on equity issues.

Roger Long congratulated the board for allowing outside groups to use the fairgrounds. After attending the weekend Heritage Festival, Long said the use of the fairgrounds is a great service for the community.

Also commenting was Larry Giordano, president of the Turbeville Ruritan Club. who thanked the the Heritage Festival organizers for allowing his group and other local clubs to take part in the event by selling food.

The Rev. Frank Coleman rose to applaud the work of ED-7 Supervisor Lottie Nunn, saying he has worked with her on the Social Services Board and has found her to be “one of the most conscientious and caring people he has ever met.”

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