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County's low tax burden touted
Sunday, February 9, 2014
By FROM BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
Henry County has the third lowest tax burden per person of all counties in Virginia, according to county Administrator Tim Hall.
Hall shared that information with the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Thursday as part of an informational session in which the supervisors reviewed their progress over the past year and established priorities for 2014.
The only two counties with lower tax burdens per person, Hall said, are Lee County and Nottoway County. Pittsylvania County ranks ninth, while Roanoke clocks in at 87th.
“That’s extraordinary, I think, that we’ve been able to accomplish the things that we’ve accomplished and keep our tax burden on the citizen as low as it is,” Hall said. “It shows that we manage our money; we don’t take any more than we need.”
He reviewed with the board the areas of focus established during the previous year’s progress session, along with advances made in each category.
In economic growth, Hall said, several major companies invested in the area and created or will create new jobs, including Monogram Foods, 100 jobs, $1.2 million investment; Commonwealth Laminating, 60 jobs, $5.45 million investment; Eastman Chemical Co., 25 jobs, $40 million investment; Bassett Furniture Industries, 25 jobs, $1.5 million investment; and Kilgour Industries, 155 jobs, $27.3 million investment.
Also, retail businesses have acquired building permits for eight new commercial buildings valued at $1.5 million and building permits for 43 commercial renovation/expansions valued at $4.1 million, he said. Dollar General and Family Dollar stores both have shown significant growth in the county, and a ribbon-cutting will be held for Tractor Supply Co. at 11 a.m. Feb. 15.
Eco-tourism has also proven strong, Hall said. The Philpott marina is nearing completion and will hold an open house from 2-4 p.m. Feb. 16. The Smith River Fest drew 2,400 people from 14 states, and the Smith River Sports Complex and area trails and river access points have shown increases in use.
In educational improvements, a consolidation proposal for Collinsville Primary and John Redd Smith Elementary School is under consideration, and the New College Institute’s (NCI) new building is slated to open this year.
Both NCI and Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), Hall said, have been valuable in stimulating the area economy, with officials from both Eastman and Kilgour citing the offerings at the colleges and the positive working relationship between the two as major factors in their decisions to move to or expand in the area.
In public safety, Hall said, a recent Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant will give the county an additional 13 paid fire and EMS workers, and firefighter and EMT classes will once again be offered in county high schools through a dual enrollment agreement with PHCC.
However, Hall said, no significant advancements were made last year to find an economic solution for crowded conditions at the Henry County Jail.
Community appearance was a priority, Hall said, and in 2013, inmates collected 5,745 bags of litter from area roadways, an increase of 134 bags over the previous year. Beautification and environmental organizations, such as Gateway Streetscape, Dan River Basin Association and Smith River Trout Unlimited, have continued their work, and the first county-sponsored garden, located near the hydroelectric dam, was established by The Harvest Foundation.
After a brainstorming session, the board of supervisors created lists of priorities for the coming year, which include further emphasis on economic development, education support, retail and public safety; better marketing of the community’s strengths and progress; addressing the issue of crowded conditions in the jail; increasing recruitment and retention of emergency volunteers; breaking ground at Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre; and deciding how to proceed with school consolidation in the Collinsville District, among other issues.