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A better way / May 02, 2013

Dear Viewpoint:

Recently the amount of $593,000 was restored to the Halifax County 2013-2014 budget as a result of $343,000 from reduced cost of operating the Regional Jail, $70,000 from reduced County Health Insurance Expense and $180,000 from estimated Sales Tax Revenue increase. While the Halifax County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee has come up with a way to divvy up the extra funds by spending most of the proceeds, I believe that there is a better fiscally responsible way to accomplish this.

First, determine if there are any additional savings to be had in the current budget. One area for reduction expense stand out, the IDA. On page 20 of the Proposed Budget for 2013-2014 (PB14) under the heading “Industrial Development Authority” are lines “Tob Comm Grant Match” for $150,000 and below it “Cont. Industrial Auth.” For $381,000 for a total of $531,000 to be given to the IDA for the 2013-2014 Fiscal year an increase of $50,000 over the prior year when other higher priority programs are being cut or level funded. The Finance Committee has recommended increasing this amount by an additional $50,000 bringing the increase to $100,000 or 20%+ over the last Fiscal Year for a total of $581,000. Reducing this to a total of $431,000 or a reduction of $50,000 for FY2014 would bring the amount of available funds to $743,000.

In view of the ineffectiveness of the IDA to accomplish its announced goal of bringing industry and high paying jobs to Halifax County, this increase cannot be justified. This newspaper recently ran a front page article indicating that the work force in Halifax County has decreased as the unemployment numbers have increased. As I have said in BOS meetings, the number of individuals in Halifax currently employed is now fewer than in 2000 as indicated by Virginia Employment Commission statistics.

Second, prioritize the use of these funds: 1) Reducing and/or Rescinding of some increases in fees proposed in the PD14: 2) Restore funds for Public Safety, including moving the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and reinstatement of the purchase of personal protective equipment of volunteer fire departments: 3) Down payment to finance the purchase of needed equipment (Front end loader): 4) Place any balance into a Fund to pay for costs associated with the Court House renovation or returned to the Reserve Fund.

It is apparent that Halifax County has not properly prepared financially for future funding requirements. The County must start to plan for more than one year at a time rather than having no written plan of action to cover a 5 to 10 year period. Three factors, Prioritization of Expenditures, Accountability for Results and Transparency in Government should be implemented to regain the confidence of the citizens of Halifax County in their county government.

Barry Bank, 5th District Supervisor Halifax County

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