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Reversion is tabled in 3-2 vote
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Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins (left) and Councilman Danny Turner voted on opposite sides of the reversion issue.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The notion of the independent city of Martinsville becoming a town in Henry County has been shelved — again.

In a 3-2 vote, Martinsville City Council on Tuesday defeated a motion made by Councilman Danny Turner and seconded by Vice Mayor Gene Teague for the city to petition the state Local Government Commission for reversion.

Turner and Teague were the only council members to vote in favor of the motion. Mayor Kim Adkins and council members Sharon Brooks Hodge and Mark Stroud voted against it.

In essence, the lack of support for the motion by the majority of council members “means it’s (reversion) tabled” indefinitely, Hodge said.

Before the vote was taken, Adkins asked the council to table consideration of reversion.

Based on financial figures she has seen, Adkins said, “the city is on a path toward improved financial health.”

She mentioned, for example, that the city’s general fund balance grew from $791,702 to $7,229,187 during the past decade.

Also, “we have a culture in the city where we encourage lively discussions in the budgeting process, and that is going to continue,” Adkins said after the meeting, concisely summing up comments she made during the meeting.

Hodge encouraged more than 30 people who were at the council meeting to hear the reversion discussion — some of whom commented on the issue — to continue providing city officials their opinions on budget issues.

“We have to make tough choices” in budgeting, Adkins said, “The (financial) challenges are real. But that doesn’t mean the city is going broke.”

Turner said he thinks “It’s obvious the city can’t stay” the way it is, such as with tax rates he thinks are too high and discourage businesses from locating in Martinsville.

Teague said he favored continuing to examine reversion because “we (city officials) are struggling” to keep city services at current levels.

Future budget cuts could involve eliminating — or at least severely reducing — popular services such as parks and recreation programs or the city’s senior center, he indicated.

A recent study revealed that as a town, Martinsville could save up to $28 million annually because Henry County would take over certain government functions, including constitutional offices and probably schools, that it now must provide as a city.

If the city were to become a town in the county, Martinsville residents would pay both town and county taxes. However, the study showed that residents likely would pay less in real estate taxes to the town and county combined than they now pay to the city alone.

Before the vote was taken, Teague said city residents should not be afraid to continue looking at reversion when it probably would mean they would be paying less in taxes while the city would be able to keep existing services.

Adkins did not rule out considering reversion again in the future if a majority of council members determine it is necessary.

The idea of reversion was studied and shelved several times in the past.

Among people at the council meeting who gave their opinions on reversion was Mary Martin, a Henry County businesswoman who recently lost a bid for the 14th District House of Delegates seat.

Martin encouraged council members not to decide themselves on whether to pursue reversion, but let citizens be extensively involved in the process.

Former Martinsville Mayor Barry Greene said he viewed the current reversion study as “a historical opportunity” to combine the county and city schools as well as constitutional offices to benefit the overall community.

The city and county “will no longer support” duplication of constitutional offices that “we no longer can afford,” Greene said.

Furthermore, he said, “one unified school district will offer our community the best opportunity to provide our children the best possible education measured in terms of quality, cost and convenience.”

Amid financial challenges, “reversion is probably the most palatable option we’ve got” although some people might find it distasteful, said city resident Ural Harris.


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