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Some fees reduced, but no action on budget

Halifax County Board of Supervisors tabled action on adopting the $87 million proposed county budget Monday night, but they did unanimously vote to amend the Business Professional and Occupational License fees – lowering the proposed increases by 50 percent.

During their regular monthly meeting in Halifax, supervisors did not discuss any plans to allocate the $593,000 in additional revenues that had not been available when the original draft budget was recommended.

The half million dollar plus surplus resulted from the county having $343,000 more than expected from reductions in regional jail costs, $70,000 from a reduction in health insurance costs and $180,000 from an increase in anticipated sales tax revenue.

Instead of discussing how to spend the extra money Monday night, Finance Committee Chairman Doug Bowman told supervisors he understood a majority on the board did not support the finance committee’s recommendation, so he would not make a motion.

Earlier finance committee members Bowman, William Fitzgerald and J. T. Davis had split 2-1 on the decision of how the extra money should be spent with Fitzgerald opposing a suggested allocation to the school system.

Bowman and Davis had recommended giving the school system an extra $150,000 out of the $593,000 recently restored to the proposed budget, but Fitzgerald maintained the board had already decided on how much the school system should receive in the coming year and voted against it.

The finance committee also recommended another huge chunk — $152,420 — be set aside for the relocation of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office which will have to be moved before the old jail can be demolished as part of the county courthouse renovation project.

In addition, the finance committee suggests using $50,000 to make a down payment on a front load refuse truck for the county public works department, adding $50,000 to the county Industrial Development Authority budget that was originally cut $100,000 and recommends setting aside another $50,000 for architectural and engineering designs to run water and sewer lines to the fairground property preparing for future development.

“It’s certainly the board’s perogative to pick and choose to have their voices known, so I’m not going to put forth this in the form of a motion because many of us have already talked about it, and I know there is not support for it,” Bowman told the full board Monday evening.

Chairman Tom West suggested the board delay action on the budget after hearing Bowman’s remarks, but the finance committee chairman urged the board to act on the Business Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) fees “even if that is all we act on,” he said.

Bowman explained before they knew an extra $593,000 would be added to the budget, the board had proposed raising BPOL fees to the maximum state code allowed.

After learning of the extra funds, Bowman suggested using $83,500 of the $593,000 to lower the proposed business license fees.

The total increase on annual renewal of business licenses would be $167,000, but Monday night Bowman recommended cutting that in half.

By a unanimous vote, supervisors voted to set the following rates for county business licenses effective July 1:

Carnivals/amusements incur a flat rate of $250 per day;

 Coin-operated amusement machines incur a flat rate of $100 annually;

 Speedways incur a flat rate of $1,000 annually;

 Contractors incur a flat rate of $50 plus 11 cents per $100 of gross receipts in excess of $200,000;

 Repair, personal, business services and all other business and occupations not specifically identified incur a flat rate of $50 plus 24 cents per $100 of gross receipts in excess of $200,000;

 Financial, real estate and professional services incur a flat rate of $50 plus 39 cents per $100 of gross receipts in excess of $200,000;

 Retail sales incur a flat rate of $50 plus 14 cents per $100 of gross receipts in excess of $200,000;

 Wholesale merchants incur a flat rate of $50 plus three cents per $100 of gross receipts in excess of $200,000;

 Fortune tellers incur a flat rate of $1,000 annually; 

 Itinerant photographers incur a flat rate of $30 annually;

 Virginia International Raceway incurs a flat rate of $100 per event; and

 Peddlers and itinerant merchants incur a flat rate of $500 anually.

After making a motion to lessen the originally proposed BPOL fees, Bowman said, “What this does is it increases the fees but not by as much as we did last time. This is a 50 percent reduction in the increase.”

He continued, “I think it is important that we don’t send a message that we are insensitive to small businesses. There are a lot of small businesses involved here.”

ED-3 Supervisor William “Bill” Fitzgerald questioned whether supervisors wished to further discuss the appropriation for the school system during Monday night’s meeting.

During the April 24 meeting of the finance committee, Fitzgerald had expressed reservations about allocating any more money to the schools and voted accordingly.

Although Fitzgerald opposed, Bowman and Davis had favored giving the schools an extra $150,000 out of the $593,000 recently restored to the proposed budget.

“I’d like to know if the board would like to make a decision on that tonight. It’s on here, and it’s been budgeted by the finance committee for the full board’s consideration,” he told supervisors.

However, supervisors agreed not to take any action on the rest of the budget until a later date.

Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed $87,218,030 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year on March 18.

It must be adopted before the end of June to become effective July 1.