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Supervisors make no changes to budgets
Despite residents' appeals

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Representatives of Henry County Schools and Blue Ridge Regional Library made pleas Monday night for more funding than proposed in the county administrator’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013-14, but the Henry County Board of Supervisors made no changes.

On a separate issue, representatives and supporters of the SPCA made appeals — sometimes emotional — that the board of supervisors allocate the remaining $15,000 in contingency in Henry County’s current budget to help make Henry County a no-kill locality. The funds are needed to provide vaccines, spay/neuter and other care for animals received from the Henry County Animal Shelter as part of the SPCA’s campaign to lower the area’s euthanasia rate to 10 percent or less by 2015, Leslie Hervey, executive director of the SPCA, has said.

About 100 people attended the supervisors’ public hearings on the county schools budget and the overall county budget Monday night at the county administration building. After hearing well over an hour of public comments, Jim Adams, chairman of the supervisors, asked the supervisors if any of them proposed changes to County Administrator Tim Hall’s proposed $115,656,057 fiscal 2013-14 budget. None did.

Hall’s proposed county budget includes pay raises for county employees, adds positions, provides level funding — but less than requested — to the school division, and raises the real estate tax rate to offset revenue drops resulting from the recent property reassessment. Aside from the school system budget, overall expenses are down 2.1 percent in the proposed budget.

Hall’s proposed budget leaves county funding for the schools at $16,577,895, the same as this fiscal year. The county school board had requested a total of $16,844,238 in county funds, an increase of about $266,343, or 1.61 percent.

Jared Cotton, superintendent Henry County Schools, and Kathy Rogers, who represents the Collinsville District on the school board, asked the supervisors to restore about $152,000 so that three school resource officers can be provided for security at 10 elementary schools. Joe DeVault, chairman of the school board and member-at-large, asked the supervisors to restore all or a substantial part of the $266,343 that was cut from the school board’s request. He added that the money for the three school resource officers is especially needed. Curtis Millner, who represents the Iriswood District on the school board, also asked for restored funding. He said, among other things, education provided by Henry County Schools is an important key in developing a qualified work force and for economic development.

Tyler Millner of the Iriswood District requested full funding for schools.

John Morris of the Fraternal Order of Police and Michael McPeek, a retired Virginia State Police trooper and former candidate for Henry County sheriff, suggested using retired law enforcement officers to help improve school security.

Janet Demiray, chairman of the board of directors of Blue Ridge Regional Library (BRRL), said during the hearing and in an a memo that Henry County’s reduction in BRRL’s budget request for the current fiscal year (2012-13) “resulted in the three Henry County branch libraries losing a total of 28 operating hours per week, cutting two part-time employees and reducing one full-time employee to part-time. In contrast, the branch libraries in Martinsville and Patrick County, whose governing bodies also reduced funding, but covered the mandated (Virginia Retirement System) increases, did not have to reduce operating hours or staff positions in FY 2013.”

The BRRL request to Henry County for fiscal 2013-14 “included an increase of $34,259, which is needed to restore the operating hours and staffing levels that the Henry County branches provided up to last year. The BRRL also requested an increase of $3,080 to cover the 10 percent increase in the employees’ group health insurance and $2,197 to cover projected increases in operating expenses,” according to Demiray. She said Hall’s proposed budget provides the reduced level funding for BRRL as the 2012-13 budget.

“If this recommendation is adopted by the board (of supervisors), not only would the BRRL branches in Henry County be forced to continue to operate on a reduced schedule, but the library system would face a deficit in its operating budget for Henry County of $5,277. It will be almost impossible to find any cost savings in the already bare-bones budget request that would not inflict further harm on the operations of the branch libraries in Bassett, Collinsville and Ridgeway. Henry County has reduced its allocation to the (BRRL) by $143,000 since 2009.”

Rick Ward, Carol Myer and Paula Burnette also spoke on behalf of the library.

Carol Berlauk, Doug Grogan, Melody Cartwright, Tiffany Smart, Scott Stone, Regina Harris, Nicole Cooke, Jessica Hale, Lisa Smith and Amy McGuire spoke on behalf of the SPCA. Applause followed their remarks.

Grogan described the pitiful state of unwanted animals roaming the land, often injured, while starving and then when captured, taken to a concrete building. Dogs and cats have “all the same emotions that we have.”

A number of speakers described dreaded euthanasia of animals and said the county’s animal euthanasia rate has been drastically reduced in recent years, with the help of county funding.

Doug Stegall of the Collinsville District told the supervisors, “I hope you will help the organizations tonight, especially the SPCA and the library because they mean so much to Henry County.”

After the public comments, supervisors made comments among themselves.

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant expressed concerns that the real estate tax rate will rise from the current 46 cents per $100 of assessed value to 48.8 cents per $100 of assessed value to offset the loss of about $660,000 in county revenue due to the drop in real estate assessments. In the end, Bryant indicated he thought increasing the real estate tax rate was unavoidable.

Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan said the suggestion to use retired officers to increase school security has “some merit,” and she asked the school board to consider the pros and cons of doing that.

Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn suggested parking a marked police car at each elementary school as “a major deterrent.”

Bryant and Reed Creek District Supervisor Tommy Slaughter agreed with Buchanan and Vaughn’s comments about school security.

Hall said he expects the supervisors will vote on adopting the county budget at their meeting April 23.


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