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Supes To Use $1.17 Million To Balance County Budget

Halifax County Board of Supervisors by consensus Monday night told Finance Director Stephanie Jackson to use $1,174,757 from the county’s reserve fund in order to balance an $89,971,290 county budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget calls for no increase in taxes and proposes a real estate tax rate of 43 cents per $100 value, personal property tax rate of $3.60 per $100 value and machinery and tools tax rate of $1.26 per $100 value.

When budget deliberations began on the proposed budget, supervisors had planned to use $910,510 of the county’s $7 million reserve fund in order to balance revenues with expenditures, according to Finance Committee Chairman Doug Bowman.

However, after the governor reinstated a $280,000 aid to locality reduction, and supervisors increased funding to the sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney’s offices, the total use of fund balance rose to $1,174,757.

State budget cuts have sliced large chunks from the county constitutional offices including $145,000 from the sheriff’s department, $45,000 from the commonwealth’s attorney/drug prosecutor budget, $33,000 from the treasurer’s office, $28,000 from the commissioner of revenue and assessment office, and $10,000 from the clerk of court’s office.

After making cuts earlier in the budget process, county supervisors agreed to reinstate $100,000 to the sheriff’s office and $32,000 to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

When all was said and done Monday evening, the end result was a 2.77 percent budget decrease over the current year’s budget for the sheriff, a 3.37 percent decrease for the commonwealth’s attorney, a 4.9 percent cut for the drug prosecutor, 10.64 percent decrease for the commissioner of revenue, 7.17 percent cut for the treasurer, and a 3.02 percent decrease for the clerk of court.

The public school system also was dealt a state cut with county funding remaining level for 2011, Bowman said.

Referring to the $1.7 million deficit, mostly created by state cuts, Bowman said, “This makes for the third consecutive year of a shift in state funding to localities.”

Although no county tax rates were increased to balance the budget for FY 2011, the finance chairman warned, “This combination cannot continue.”

“We can’t keep doing this,” echoed ED-8 Supervisor W. Bryant Claiborne speaking of the county dipping into its reserve funds to balance the budget.

“I really don’t expect for things to get much better anytime soon,” Bowman said, adding, “It’s a serious policy issue.”

Jackson informed supervisors that once the $1.7 is drawn down to balance the 2011 budget, the county’s reserve fund would contain an approximate balance of $5.8 to $5.9 million.

Acting on the board’s recommendations Monday night, Jackson said she would prepare a budget resolution which includes the additions discussed and present it to the board for adoption at its June 21 meeting.

In other action Monday night, supervisors held three public hearings in which no one spoke.

The first hearing was on a proposed $147,750 United States Department of Agriculture grant for public safety equipment for the sheriff’s department.

According to County Administrator George Nester, the sheriff was seeking permission to apply for a $197,000 matching grant to purchase six fully equipped vehicles to replenish its rolling stock.

If the 75 percent matching grant is awarded, the county will have a local responsibility of $49,250, Nester said.

Supervisors unanimously voted to apply for the matching grant with Chairman William Fitzgerald absent from the meeting.

Following the second public hearing of the evening, supervisors adopted an amendment to the agricultural forestal district ordinance that changes the application deadline from Nov. 1 to Sept. 1 of each year.

After the third public hearing was held, supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use permit application by William Larry Miller to operate a meeting and conference center on a five acre portion of Cloverdale Quarters Farm on the north side of Philpott Road 0.75 of a mile east of its intersection with Hackberry Road at 1130 Cloverdale Trail in Sutherlin in ED#6.

In other action Monday night, supervisors took the following actions:

• Heard a report from Fair Coordinator Donnell Corelle who reported approximately 550 people attended the HaliFair event held Saturday at the fairgrounds.

She also told supervisors artwork to promote the 100th Annual Halifax County Fair has been finalized, and changes are under way to the fair’s website.

Corelle said she continues to make presentations to local civic organizations promoting the fair, confirmed the 29th Virginia Guard Band will perform during the “Salute to Veterans” on the first night of the fair and said the drive for fair sponsorships is continuing.

•  Approved amending the bylaws of the Economic Development Council which meets monthly at the hospital reducing the size of its membership from 25 to 18;

•  Agreed to continue the county’s current policy of funding 5 percent of the Virginia Retirement System benefit for new employees hired after July 1;

According to Nester, the 2010 general assembly approved legislation that states new employees hired after July 1 are subject to paying their own 5 percent retirement benefit, but the legislation also gives jurisdictions an option of paying up to 5 percent as has been the policy in past years.

Supervisors agreed since county employees have not received raises in the past three years, the county should continue to pay 5 percent annually to the VRS on all employees’ behalf, and not just for those hired before July 1, 2010.

•  Were informed that Linc of Virginia Beach is currently conducting an energy audit at no cost to the county for the courthouse, Mary Bethune Complex, library building and County Administration Building to determine what the county can do to improve efficiency in these buildings;

•  Set a public hearing for June 21 on a conditional use permit by Charlie H. Hightower to establish a water bottling and distribution facility on a 6.5 acre parcel on Dixon Trail in ED#3.

Under unfinished business, board members made appointments to fill vacancies on the following boards and commissions:

•  Appointed Nancy Leonard from ED#1 to fill a vacancy on the Improvement Council;

•  Reappointed Glenn C. Ratliff to fill a four year term that expires June 30 on the DCC Community Colleges Advisory Board;

•  Reappointed Jewel Giles to serve one more four year term that expires June 30 on the Regional Library Board;

•  Reappointed Susan McLamb to serve one more four year term that expires June 30 on the Social Services Board;

•  Reappointed Tom West and Alternate J. T. Davis to four year terms that expire June 30 on the Southside Regional Public Service Authority; and

•  Reappointed Nancy Pool (business representative) and William Fitzgerald to terms that expire June 30 on the Workforce Investment Board.