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Making the case: trio urges passage of county sales tax

SoVaNow.com / September 05, 2019


Three speakers stood before the Halifax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to make the case for passing the local sales tax referendum in November — part of a coordinated effort to build public support for a 1-cent tax increase to pay for high school improvements.

Nick Long, Grey Watson and Mark Estes appealed to supervisors to be vocal in their support of the ballot initiative, which the board authorized by a unanimous vote in August.

The speakers’ remarks, however, were plainly aimed more at voters.

“We need to pass this referendum overwhelmingly,” said Long, who recounted the history of how the existing high school, which opened in 1979, was built.

The prospects for constructing a new Halifax County Senior High School appeared to collapse, Long said, when then-Congressman Dan Daniel helped to establish a federal program that breathed new life into the project. Through the creation of a federal infrastructure fund, Halifax County was gifted an initial grant of $5 million — later rising to around $8 million, Long said.

It was the second largest such grant award in the country, and it paid two-thirds of the $12 million cost of building the new school — the same structure, 40 years later, that architects and engineers say needs a massive overhaul, or total replacement.

The sales tax, Long suggested, could play a role similar to the federal EDA grant that Daniel helped to secure for Halifax County decades ago, by taking the tax burden of paying for a new school off of county landowners and property holders.

“We have not had an opportunity like this for 40 years,” he said.

Estes, executive director of the Halifax County Service Authority, introduced himself by noting his past background as a building code official, fire inspector and parent of five children who have gone through the school system. “I understand buildings, how they’re designed, how they conform. I know the limitations of the building that we currently have,” he said.

Estes said he supports the sales tax as a “person who likes deals — I like to get something for nothing just as much as anyone else.” Because a portion of sales tax proceeds will come from people who do not live in Halifax County, “this is the one opportunity we have” to offload some the burden of paying for the high school.

“I’ll give you an analogous situation — to build my house, set up a toll booth and have someone drop a coin in there every time they pass by my house … this is a chance we can do that,” Estes said.

Watson, one of the co-chairs of the Chamber of Commerce steering committee that oversaw development of the 2030 Community Strategic Plan, said “a modern high school facility is the number one priority” identified by community members who took part in the study.

Passing the referendum, and upgrading HCHS, “will help grow our economic development, attract professionals to our community to work and live, and more importantly, stay, and give every educational opportunity to our children,” Watson said.

She called the job of building voter support for the referendum “our call to action.

“I hope our community will use the next two months to become more educated in this referendum,” she said, and “vote yes for Halifax County Public Schools.”

The remarks come as the Chamber of Commerce, joined by local government and business leaders, ramp up its outreach campaign to pass the referendum. The Chamber’s efforts include the formation of a speaker’s bureau, website and other advocacy.

Also Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors:

» approved a conditional use permit for Dale Miller, a longtime resident of the Virgilina area, to operate a community center and events venue at the shuttered Cluster Springs Early Learning Center, formerly Cluster Springs Elementary.

Miller spoke briefly about his plans for the school building, where he and his son hope to establish a community food pantry, meeting place, after-school programs and a venue for events such as wedding gatherings and concerts.

The latter drew an objection from ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts, who expressed concern at the idea of hosting paid admission events there.

“We don’t want to introduce a dance hall that [would be] an abuse of the permit,” said Ricketts, offering an example.

However, other board members said it would be unfair to Miller to prevent him from holding paid-admission events at the school. Such a ban would even prevent the Millers from holding charity benefits with ticket sales and charges at the door.

Hubert Pannell, ED-3 supervisor, said it would be wrong for the county to deprive Miller of the revenue he will need to make the community center a success.

“This man needs to make some money to run the place,” said Pannell.

Miller, meantime, vowed to “take care of the community, because I’m a community-based person. I’ve been here for 40 years.”

After some debate, the board approved the conditional use permit by unanimous vote.

» Supervisors also updated the county’s erosion and sediment control ordinance to exempt landowners who disturb less than 10,000 square feet, double the existing threshold of 5,000 square feet.

For developers and landowners who carry out work on larger plots, the supervisors revised the fee schedule for sediment control permits and inspections. The current fee of $100 covers both the permit and inspections; the new rate schedule calls for paying a $200 permit fee, and $200 for monthly inspections through the anticipated life of the project.

» The board declared Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week in Halifax County.



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Comments

Voters beware look who is supporting this tax increase. We do not need a new high school. Vote NO! NO new taxes. If the chamber is so hot for this have them get a grant.

Comments

Well said allpolitical2, Taxpayers BEWARE! The wife of a judge who will sit in a brand new over-budget courthouse, the radio voice of the comets who's wife is employed by the school system, and an employee of the service authority who's directly benefiting from water and sewer services to said schools. They keep talking about economic benefits of a new school, well that certainly did NOT occur after the current HCHS was built. The population is shrinking and this is an aging in place community. A shiny new building to show off to business prospects is not a valid reason to build a new High School. Fix what is broke and clean up the school where the general lack of upkeep has allowed it to look run down. (A good pressure washing would be a great start, but I bet the current School Board wouldn't allow it!) What they also aren't saying is that purchases made by Halifax County taxpayers will now increase 1% for a term of 20 years if this referendum passes.

Comments

Correction to my prior post, it should be 1 cent not 1% on purchases. Regardless, keep in mind that the BOS are Chamber members so in essence this is 3 lackeys of politics making public for the record remarks to brainwash the general public. Just vote NO in NOvember taxpayers and make the county and school system maintenance departments actually do their jobs for once and clean up the mess that is the HCHS.

Comments

Education is important. Fishing is importaner.

Comments

Beware citizens, the fix is in on the new school just like the courthouse. How anyone.can vote for these tax and spend jerks defies me!! Claiborne is worst of all!!!


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