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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Recommended county budget includes tax, fee hikes
Increases would raise about $1.8 million

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors took no action on a recommended $129 million budget for the county that includes tax increases to offset an almost $900,000 projected shortfall for both the county and the schools.

But three supervisors made it clear they support the proposal.

County Administrator Rick Huff presented the recommended budget to the board Tuesday afternoon.

Those proposed tax hikes include a real estate tax increase of 2 cents on each $100 of assessed value, a 2-cent increase in personal property tax and an increase in the vehicle license fee from $25 a year to $34.25.

All of the those increases would produce an extra $1.8 million.

Of that total, the county would receive $635,000, the schools $635,000 (from the real estate tax), and the money raised from the personal property tax and vehicle license fee increases (about $600,000) would be set aside for upcoming large capital projects.

With the extra money, the county will be able to cover its state mandates, Huff said, and the schools can cover their mandates and other money schools are required to spend in order to receive state funds for programs.

The mandates for the county includes an operational increase at the regional jail ($420,000) due to number of inmates sent from the county, capital requirement for the regional jail ($222,000), a 30-percent increase in the costs related to the Comprehensive Services Act ($150,000), courthouse security screeners when renovation work is completed ($125,000) and a state-mandated stormwater specialist ($55,000).

For the schools, the list includes a Virginia Retirement System rate increase ($1.2 million), a scheduled 1 percent contribution to the VRS ($193,000) and several programs that total almost $500,000 that are required by the state for an increase in funding.

These lists do not include other priorities for the county and schools, and they do not include any pay increases.

Gills Creek Supervisor Bob Camicia said the county would be hard-pressed to find the money needed just to cover the mandates.

"I know there is some hesitancy on the board on tax increases," he said. "I am for it (the recommended budget). I support it and I will vote that way."

Camicia said the alternative is to cut services, and he presented four possible ways to cut to save about $1.5 million.

Those included limiting the number of green box sites in the county, eliminating summer sports programs, reducing the number of deputies and eliminating full-time EMS services.

"The public needs to know what we need to do to get the budget balanced (with no tax increases)," he said.

Blue Ridge District Supervisor Bobby Thompson agreed with Camicia, saying the recommended budget is "pretty bare-bones even at this."

"It would be short-sighted to cut," he said, adding that any cuts would affect the schools and the quality of life issues prospective businesses look at before deciding where to locate.

Blackwater District Supervisor Cline Brubaker also agreed, saying residents need the services now in place and all are important.

"We can't kick this can down the road," Camicia said.

No action was taken, but supervisors said they would further discuss the issue after a public hearing Tuesday night.

Huff said the proposed real estate tax increase would add about $32 a year to the bill on a house assessed at $164,000, which is the county average. The personal property tax increase would add $4 a year on two cars, for example, with a total assessed value of $20,000. The increase in the vehicle license fee would cost another $18.50 a year for each vehicle.

The total increase using these figures would be about $55 a year, or less than $5 a month.

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