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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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Speakers air opinions on proposed county budget
Comments were split between pro, con tax hikes

Friday, April 18, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

About 20 residents addressed the Franklin County Board of Supervisors during a public hearing on the proposed county budget for fiscal year 2014-15 Tuesday night.

Speakers were split on their support of a proposed increase in the real estate and personal property taxes and vehicle license fee.

If the proposed county budget for next year stays as it is, residents will see a 2-cent real estate and a 2-cent personal property tax increase next year, as well as a hike in the vehicle license fee (formerly the decal) from $25 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.

County Administrator Rick Huff opened the public hearing by explaining the extra money is needed to cover state mandates, which have created a projected shortfall next year of about $900,000, about $600,000 for the county and $300,000 for the schools.

With the extra money, the county will be able to cover the shortfall created by the mandates and other required spending in schools.

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.

Rick Arrington of Hardy told the board the budget process this year has seen a "vast improvement" from previous years, but individuals in the county have needs as well. And the economy is not growing.

Arrington suggested using money from the county's fund balance rather than raising taxes.

"We need to do that this year while people are hurting," he said.

However, George Morrison of Union Hall echoed other speakers when he said the increases are a "good investment" in the county and the schools, helping create a quality of life that brings people here.

Harry Sink of Snow Creek said he opposes any tax increases because "spending is out of control."

Sink said he was nearing the point he was ready to move out of Franklin County because of the high taxes.

But Bill Jacobsen, CEO of Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital and vice president of Carilion Clinic, praised the county and schools for being frugal in recent years and said any further cuts could hurt the school system.

"Our schools have done a marvelous job in cutting costs," he said.

Leanne Worley, an educator and vocal supporter of county schools, said many are pointing fingers in the wrong direction.

Worley pointed out that the state balanced its budget in 2011-12 by underfunding the Virginia Retirement System, which is one of the many areas where expenses have been passed down to localities.

Supervisors heard all of the comments but made no decision on finalizing the budget. That decision is set to be made Tuesday, April 22 during a meeting at 6 p.m. in the board's meeting room.

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