Tax increase proposed for Southampton

Published 12:13 pm Saturday, April 9, 2011

COURTLAND—Southampton County has introduced a $52.3 million draft budget that includes a property tax increase and 2 percent cost-of-living pay increases for county and school employees.

The spending plan is $215,000 less than the current budget and includes an extra $130,553 requested by the Southampton County School Board on top of the county’s $10.7 million allocation to a $26.4 million budget.

“The Board of Supervisors is usually most kind,” School Board Chairman Russell Schools said. “We try to ask for as little additional money as possible. We are grateful if the budget goes ahead.”

If the county budget is approved, a resident with a property assessed at $100,000 who currently pays $790 in real estate taxes can expect to pay $30, or 3.8 percent, more, said County Administrator Mike Johnson.

The pay increases will cost the county $335,605. Johnson said the last pay raises were given in 2008; he believes they were in the 2- to 3-percent range.

Johnson explained that the budget is funded with federal, state and local dollars; for 2011-2012 the state and federal governments reduced their total share by $550,000. Most of that funding was for the school district and constitutional offices, which include the sheriff, clerk of courts, commissioner of revenue, treasurer and commonwealth’s attorney.

“When you look at the big picture, the total school budget is about $286,000 less than last year,” he said.

Johnson attributed the need for less money for the county budget, in part, to continued savings on garbage disposal.

The county has saved more than $2.5 million since July 2006 by reducing what it sends to the landfill in Suffolk. Dumpsites that used to open 24-7 are now fenced in and open three days a week. The county also instituted curbside recycling in a number of towns and more populated communities.

The county will pay $4.8 million, or $450,000 more, next year on loans for construction at Riverdale, Meherrin and Nottoway elementary schools, Southampton Middle and High schools, the sewer plant in Courtland and development of Turner Tract Industrial Park.

The budget also includes $170,000 for a security system at the courthouse, Johnson said. Once it is installed after July 1, anyone who enters the courthouse will have to walk through an X-ray machine. The county will need two part-time employees to man the operation.

The county also has to begin paying a $32,000-a-year insurance premium for police officers and volunteer firefighters killed in the line of duty. The state requires the benefit and had paid the fee until this year. Johnson said he expects that fee to double within five years.