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School funds urged
Board asked to consider tax increase
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Henry County Education Association President Dorothy Carter urged the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to consider meeting the school system’s budgetary needs next year — even if it means raising property taxes by 10 percent.
“A 10 percent increase would cost the average taxpayer less than $50 per year, and it would put about $2.2 million more into the coffers of Henry County,” Carter said, acknowledging that the idea may be unpopular with property owners. “It could fully fund our schools from the county funding at the 2009 level. ... We can do no more on less.”
Carter, who spoke during the public comment section of the supervisors’ 6 p.m. meeting, commended the county for maintaining a healthy unassigned fund balance and supporting the school system in many ways, such as by providing iPads for students and seeking ways to fund a new elementary school.
However, Carter expressed concern that the school system did not receive the full amount of funding requested by the school board for the current fiscal year. Because of that, she said, the school system’s capital outlay, education and recreation budgets were cut by 10 percent.
“Some schools, worried about having enough paper, have asked churches and other charities to donate for this need,” Carter said. “There is something wrong with that picture in my mind.”
Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said in a statement to the Bulletin later Tuesday: “I have received no information that schools have been asking churches and other charities to donate supplies. If this is taking place, I have not been informed that this is the case.”
Another issue Carter cited was a smaller amount of take-home pay for teachers. She said teachers are taking home an average of $100 less per month than they did two years ago.
The state bears some responsibility for reduced educational funding, Carter said, but the county has some responsibility as well.
“Henry County support has dwindled to $802,063 less than it provided in 2009, and it has gone from 68 percent of the total county budget going toward education to 66 percent of the total budget funding education,” she said. “The numbers make me wonder how our county can expect Henry County Public Schools to perform with less in an era when prices are continuing to rise.”
“As far as the budget is concerned, Henry County Public Schools will continue to face challenges as we begin the upcoming budget season,” Cotton said in his statement to the Bulletin. “As in previous years, I plan to collaborate with (County Administrator) Mr. Tim Hall and the Board of Supervisors to articulate the school division’s needs moving forward.”
The supervisors did not respond to Carter’s comments.
Also at the board’s evening meeting, the supervisors:
• Presented a plaque to Wayne Cochran honoring his 24 years of service as building and grounds supervisor for the county.
Hall said that Cochran “literally and figuratively answers the call. I’m sure his cell phone goes off more than mine and (Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner’s) combined. ... He’s a tremendous employee, a tremendous citizen and is the quintessential behind-the-scenes public employee that most people never see, and we could not operate without him and the skillset that he brought to us for the last 24 years.” Cochran is retiring effective Sept. 1.
• Heard a report on general highway matters from Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Assistant Residency Administrator David Kiser.
Kiser said VDOT is mowing secondary routes in the county and will move on to primary routes once secondaries are completed.
On Sept. 8, Kiser said, Route 827 will be closed for two weeks to replace a pipe.
Also, he said, a grading project at the Route 657/655 intersection has been completed; a traffic signal adjustment and lane painting project at the Kings Mountain Road/Daniels Creek Road intersection is on target to be completed by September; a proposed safety project on U.S. 220 near the state line has been reduced in scope to just address the northbound lane; and a project on U.S. 220 just north of Bassett is expected to be completed by Oct. 7.
• Held a public hearing on a rezoning application.
Fannie Penn asked that property on Preston Road in the Horsepasture District be re-zoned from suburban residential S-R to agricultural A-1. Penn intends to demolish a home on the property and replace it with a single-wide manufactured home.
The only public comment came from Penn’s daughter, Sandra Gentry of Horsepasture, who said that board documents had the address listed incorrectly. The actual address, she said, should have been 994 Preston Road.
The previously listed address “is my house, and I don’t want that one demolished,” Gentry said.