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Speakers press their case for more county funding / March 18, 2013
A tight-fisted county budget has drawn the attention of agency representatives who will plead their case for additional money tonight before the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors will host a public hearing beginning at 6 p.m. in the second floor meeting room of the Mary Bethune Complex in Halifax. The meeting has been called to consider the proposed $88,716,327 county budget for 2013-2014, which goes in effect July 1.

As of Thursday, seven people had signed up to address the supervisors at their meeting tonight.

The speaker list encompasses a diverse range of services, from The Prizery to the local library system, the Longwood Small Business Office to the county tourism department, the School Board to the Department of Social Services.

Superintendent of Schools Merle Herndon has said she will approach the supervisors for what would be the single largest funding request — $250,000, which school officials say is necessary to avoid cutting programs — but the schools are not the only group to contend that more money is essential.

Larry Harris of the Longwood Small Business Office said yesterday he will approach the supervisors to explain the impact that a proposed $10,738 cut would have on the small business center.

Acknowledging the board has tough fiscal decisions to make, Harris noted the the loss of the local funds would jeopardize a 1-to-1 funding match from the federal Small Business Administration. Losing the local appropriation would thus lead to an overall $21,000 reduction in his budget, Harris said.

The bulk of the Small Business Office’s budget — 85 percent — goes towards salaries; the other 15 percent covers the cost of supplies and travel.

Harris noted his office is funded by three counties in the service area, Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick. “I have not received word from any the others about cutting our budget,” he said.

Scheduled to speak tonight on behalf of The Prizery is Barbara Speece, who said yesterday she will ask the supervisors to earmark $75,000 for the performing arts center.

Although The Prizery has not received funding from the county in the past — supervisors did agree to extend a loan to the organization during its recent restructuring — Speece said the case for support in the budget is strong, given the Prizery’s mission-oriented role in the community.

“We have allowed the use of the facility to Pre-K students [with] no rental fee, as well as for programs for the school’s Gifted and Talent Program,” said Speece. “Without some help we will have to start charging for the use of the facility in order to meet our financial obligations.”

Speece also said yesterday she will highlight the broad uses of The Prizery and the number of county residents who enjoy its programs.

Library Director Joe Zappacosta is also scheduled to address the supervisors after asking for $192,000 for the coming year. The supervisors have recommended $175,000, the same amount as in the current budget.

Kathy Andrews, director of the Halifax County Department of Social Services, has also asked for more funding to qualify for additional matching funds from the state. The local match would need to rise by 15 percent to meet state requirements.

The South Boston/Halifax County Museum will seek the restoration of funds after the supervisors eliminated the existing $10,386 museum appropriation as part of its recommendations. Beth Coates, representing the museum, will speak after previously approaching the supervisors for $14,000 next year.

Tourism Director Linda Shepperd has asked to speak on the recommended funding for her department, $106,120, which is less than the $120,817 she sought for the new budget year.

In making the recommendation, county staff noted that 60 percent of the county’s transient occupancy tax is dedicated to tourism. In 2012 that tax brought in $176,867; 60 percent of that amount is $106,120.

When the proposed budget was first introduced, County Administrator James Halasz stressed that it is balanced using current operating revenues and did not rely on the county’s reserve fund, which the county has dipped into over the past several years.

In addition to agency representatives who have signed up to address the Board, tonight meeting is expected to draw comments from local dog owners who are opposed to proposed fee increases for dog tags. (See related story)

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SHould have put my other commet here, but you notice the people that have to work an pay for the taxes can't be here, but the people that wnat the hand outs sure are. I have not been to an event at the prizery since it has opened. Iwould dare say that that most of the county popoulation does not go. It is for the rich, so if they want to keep it, make them pay for it.

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