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Halifax set to add full-time police officer

The Halifax Police Department soon will add another full-time police officer to its staff after Halifax Town Council approved the finance committee’s recommendation to upgrade the department from four to five full-time officers.

The recommendation came during budget discussions at council’s monthly meeting Tuesday night in Halifax Town Hall.

Council also approved upgrading a part-time sanitation worker to full-time and the finance committee’s recommendation to keep the town’s current insurance plan, Key Advantage 250.

According to Town Manager Carl Espy, the rates are increasing by 5 percent for the individual coverage plan (Key Advantage 250), and the town will continue to pay 90 percent of the total monthly plan contribution of $435 on behalf of the employee. 

The increase will translate into an increase of $2 per month for the employee to absorb on the $250 deductible plan with additional increases for dual or family enrollment. 

 TLC-Anthem allows one plan to be selected for all employees. The medical benefits are through Anthem, and the dental benefits are with Delta Dental, the town manager explained. 

Despite the 5 percent increase, Espy said the town has continued to realize significant savings through selecting TLC since 2011-12 when insurance premiums under Halifax County’s Anthem policy increased by 24 percent to $56,808 for annual employee coverage.

Previously, the town had participated under the county’s Anthem insurance policy. 

The employees now receive a more comprehensive benefit package through TLC-Anthem at a lower cost.

It is projected the town will pay $52,000 in health insurance premiums for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Tuesday night council approved setting the first reading of the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year budget for May 13.

According to Espy, the budget general fund revenue sheet totals $1,460,523, down from the current fiscal year amended budget by 8.36 percent and virtually flat compared to the original 2013-2014 fiscal year’s budget. 

Again, this year the variability of the budget is due largely to the grant funded Banister River Gateway Project for which construction is slated to be complete by late summer. 

Funds to support the Halifax Library at the current level and the new fire department truck are also included in the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget along with the ongoing vehicle replacement costs for the police and sanitation departments in which the amended 2014-2015 budget already includes the first payment.  

This year, no tax increases in real estate and personal property will be required to balance the budget, Espy said.

The Halifax County Commissioner of Revenue’s Office has not provided the 2014 reassessed value of real estate within the town’s corporate limits, so the budget assumes a 1.51 percent decrease from 2012 assessment of $96,065,118. 

However, higher revenue adjustments from law enforcement funds, personal property taxes, meal tax, bank stock tax, farmers market income, business license fees and other sources do not require town council to increase its tax rate for real property from the current 17.5 cents per $100 assessed value which has remained in effect since 2010. 

In the FY 2013-14 budget, machinery and tool tax was raised from 40 cents to 50 cents which is only the second raise since 2000 from the original 30 cent rate, and it remains very competitive compared to Halifax County’s rate of $1.26 per $100 value for machines and tools, Espy said. 

The tax on personal property holds at $1.68 per $100 assessed value, and this year the amount of relief to owners of eligible personal property remains at the current 0.5189 PPTRA rate. 

The general reserve fund set aside from the STAG grant reimbursement of $79,549 in 2008-2009, which is appropriated as needed when annual revenue surpluses continue to replenish for fixed expenses such as the note amortization, is now projected at a reduced amount of $40,000. 

This year, for the regular operational expenses in public safety, the fire department decreased by 12.65 percent because of its staggered biennial fire fund allocation, but it includes the annual contribution for a new pumper truck purchase, and the police department increased by 5.14 percent to bring its roster back to four full-time officers following the department’s reduction three years ago. 

Operational expenses in the sanitation department increase 13.31 percent to include the new trash truck payment and bring the part-time sanitation employee to full-time. 

Due to savings through the town’s healthcare plan where major premium increases have been avoided for four years, the mayor and the finance chair have allowed employee compensation adjustments up to 3 percent based on annual evaluations, and 1 percent per employee has been added due to retirement contributions to the Virginia retirement system being deducted from paychecks at an incremental rate over the remaining two years. 

Espy said he and Finance Chair Dennis Witt have included phased repairs and capital outlay for the municipal building lowered by 8.13 percent with adjustments in business development increasing $5,500 for farmers market development and the façade improvement program with the events related expenses remaining level.

In other action, Tuesday night council appointed Commissioner Ace Bohanon for a second term on the planning commission. His term will expire in January 2018. 

Council also adopted a resolution declaring April 13 -19 as National Library Week in the Town of Halifax and another resolution supporting the display of the United States motto “In God We Trust” on Halifax Town Council Chambers in a prominent location at Town Hall.