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Halifax supes opt not to raise real estate tax / April 06, 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 state 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 on legislation enacted by the General Assembly earlier this year that allows counties to match the food and beverage taxes imposed by surrounding towns and cities.

ED-5 supervisor Dean Throcknorton 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.

This story will be updated.

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