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Increase in taxes on table Monday night

Setting the tax rate and approving the 2013-14 fee schedule and school budget allocation tops the agenda for the Halifax County Board of Supervisors when they meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.

Finance committee members are expected to recommend tonight that supervisors raise the real estate tax rate by two cents from its present rate of 45 cents to 47 cents per $100 assessed value, give the school system $240,000 more in local money and adopt the increase in fees as proposed earlier this month.

Each penny increase in the real estate tax rate will generate $359,000 in additional income for a total of $718,000 if the 2-cent increase is approved.

All other tax rates are advertised to remain the same with personal property remaining at $3.60 and machinery and tools tax remaining at $1.26.

Finance Committee Chairman Doug Bowman met with committee members ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis and ED-3 Supervisor William “Bill” Fitzgerald along with County Administrator Jim Halasz and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson last month to discuss budget recommendations that may be made to the full board tonight.

When advertising the real estate tax rate, supervisors had set the limit taxes could be raised at 47 cents saying it would “offer them flexibility.”

Finance committee members said last week they planned to suggest the board use two-thirds of the first penny increase to provide additional school funding of $240,000 and commit the remaining one-third of the penny to the general fund balance so that unmet budget requests and expenses cut from the budget could be considered for funding.

The other penny increase is earmarked for courthouse renovations that are not optional, said Bowman.

In addition to raising the real estate tax rate by two cents to 47 cents, finance members are expected to suggest supervisors contribute a total of $600,000 above current year funding to the county school budget making the county’s contribution $13,506,000.

Earlier staff had recommended total county funding of $13,267,529 compared to the school board’s original request for $16,630,336.

Supervisors are expected to approve appropriation of local funding for the schools tonight so that they may enter into contract with teachers and staff for the new academic year by the April 15 deadline.

Concerning fees, finance committee members discussed retaining memberships in the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce at a cost of $3,200 and in the Roanoke River Basin Association to help continue the fight against uranium mining at a cost of $3,930.

Supervisors are expected to establish the rates and fees for vehicles, businesses and animals as recommended in the draft budget proposal by the finance committee.

During last month’s March 4 public hearing on the budget, it was a packed meeting room with 23 citizens taking turns commenting on the proposed fee increases and spending cuts proposed in the 2013-14 Halifax County budget that totals $88.7 million.

The balanced budget draft includes is $510,886 less than the current year’s budget.

In the proposed balanced budget, most departments’ operational budgets remained level with or less than the current year’s funding.

Health insurance costs are anticipated to increase by $170,000 and are included in the staff recommended budget, but no across the board pay hikes are included for county employees in the coming year.

Supervisors are not expected to vote on approving the entire $88.7 million budget until their May meeting.

No public hearings are scheduled for tonight’s board meeting.

In other business tonight, board members are expected to take the following actions:

Hear a monthly status report from Kenneth Martin of the Virginia Department of Transportation;

 Vote on authorizing the county administrator to enter into an agreement for the county to use the middle school as an emergency shelter instead of the Mary Bethune gym since the middle school has an ample food preparation area, sufficient space and is centrally located;

 Consider action on withholding the issuance of building, zoning and land use permits for individuals who owe delinquent real estate taxes until the taxes are paid in full and set a public hearing on an amendment to county code requiring full payment of delinquent real estate taxes prior to issuance of a building license;

 Vote on permitting the county to participate in the Rural Development Community Facilities Loan Program to finance debt service for renovation of the Halifax County Courthouse;

 Consider a request from the L. E. Coleman African-American Museum for tax exemption;

 Authorize public hearings to be held by the county planning commission in April and the board of supervisors in May on a request from George A. Anderson to withdraw one parcel consisting of 30.42 acres from the Rodgers Chapel Road agricultural forestal district in order to subdivide;

 Receive a financial report from County Finance Director Jackson; and 

 Make appointments to fill vacancies on the Southside Regional Group Home Commission, Transportation Safety Commission, Improvement Council and the Lake Country Area Agency on Aging.

At the conclusion of tonight’s meeting, supervisors are expected to go behind closed doors in an executive session to discuss specific personnel matters, the acquisition or disposition of property; the protection of the privacy of individuals in personal matters not related to public business; a prospective business or industry or expansion of an existing business; consult with legal counsel and discuss award of a public contract involving public funds.