He supports challengers for Southampton County Supervisors

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

by Larry Brown

The Sept. 28 candidate forum held at Southampton High School involving seven candidates for the Southampton County Board of Supervisors was very informative.

All candidates are against tax increases, desire to grow Southampton’s agricultural economy to create more jobs and support Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. to bring in business. Several of the candidates felt that FSEDI should be held more accountable for the lack of jobs created considering the money invested in FSEDI over the years.

Most of the county’s $69 million debt occurred under the watch of the four incumbents. Expensive projects resulted in Southampton County having the fifth highest personal property tax rate and the 15th highest real estate tax rate out of 95 Virginia counties.

The incumbents at the forum said they were against tax increases, yet their spending policies over the years are the main reason why the county is so deeply in debt and has such high taxes.

These taxes are a detriment to attracting industry.

Challengers Glenn Updike, Alan Edwards, Bruce Phillips and Barry Porter care deeply about the county’s welfare and way of life. All are qualified and more conservative and goal-oriented than the incumbents.

Based on the supervisors meetings I’ve attended over the years, the present board does not have a good chemistry. There is no doubt in my mind that residents would be better served if the four conservative challengers were elected. They would bring new ideas to the board and make county officials more accountable.

The Board of Supervisors can keep this debt from growing with more conservative measures advocated by the challengers. The board needs to be involved in the budget process for all departments with special emphasis on staffing needs, salaries and benefits.

Mr. Updike noted that the previous assistant county administrator also handled the county planning job. The county now has a new assistant administrator and a new planner. There is very little construction going on compared to five or six years ago.

Glenn also asked why the present staffing level of the inspection department is the same today as it was five or six years ago when there was considerable construction activity. Does it make sense in tough economic times to have a county planner and the same staffing level in the inspections department that existed five or six years ago?

The challengers would and should be more involved in county personnel decisions than the four incumbents have been to hold the line on taxes.

Mr. Porter noted that when tough economic times hit the private sector in 2008, companies cut jobs. Over the years, many technological advances have occurred that allowed private-sector workers to be more efficient.

Jobs were handled more efficiently with fewer people because of advances in technology.

When I came to Franklin more than 45 years ago, Union Camp employed close to 2,500. When the mill closed, there were 1,100. Production continued to increase over the years because of advances in technology.

County personnel levels and fringe benefits will need to be adjusted by the Board of Supervisors if the tax rate is not going to be increased.

The proposed 2012 school budget cut the instruction portion of the budget, which includes teachers’ salaries, by $43,737 and increased the administration budget by $92,964. The new Board of Supervisors should scrutinize the school budget closely because it is the biggest expense for the county.

I wonder why the proposed budget has a $92,964 increase for the administration and a $43,737 decrease for the instruction. The administration already has most of the high-paying jobs.

The incumbents who are being challenged are partly responsible for the financial dilemma the county is in today because of their liberal spending policies.

If the county is going to hold the line on tax increases, the new board will have to make some difficult and unpopular decisions; we all now how taxes in the county escalated when the incumbents were on the board.

I hope that on Nov. 8, residents will vote for the conservative, qualified and objective challengers. Glenn Updike, Alan Edwards, Bruce Phillips and Barry Porter.

LARRY BROWN is a resident of the Newsoms District in Southampton County and a retired farmer and landowner. He can be reached at 562-6249.