Opposition to county budget expected

Published 10:44 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

COURTLAND—A Southampton County government watchdog group will share its thoughts on the county’s $52.3 million draft budget during a 7 p.m. Monday, May 16, public hearing.

Citizens for Responsible Government, which has more than 200 members, will let William Hart Gillette represent the group during the meeting in the auditorium at Southampton High School.

The 2011-2012 proposed budget includes a property tax increase and 2 percent cost-of-living pay increases for county and school employees. If 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.

“We want to make sure the Board of Supervisors looked into areas where the budget can be cut to save money,” said Spier Edwards, president for Citizens for Responsible Government and mayor of Boykins. “We’re trying to look at all aspects of government, where savings can be made, and we’re trying to find ways to cut spending and reduce debt.”

County Administrator Mike Johnson said every department’s budget is gone through line by line.

“We look at spending trends,” Johnson said. “There are many items we have no control over like insurance costs and power costs, which are significant costs.”

Spending on things like travel and office equipment has been reduced over the years.

Citizens for Responsible Government also supports a more aggressive method for collecting delinquent real estate and personal property taxes, Edwards said.

Southampton County as of mid-April was owed $938,000 in taxes out of $33 million assessed from 2006-2010. The county on May 1 began working with Virginia Auction and Collection Co. to help collect the back taxes. Residents more than six months in arrears may have their vehicles towed until the debt is settled or payment arrangements are made.

Citizens for Responsible Government also favors raises for the lower-paid employees only, Edward said.

“(And) we feel like a bonus plan needs to be set up for employees for suggestions that lead to a savings that benefits all taxpayers,” he said.