Facebook page created to oppose $200 Southampton County garbage fee

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

COURTLAND—A grassroots effort is under way to stop Southampton County supervisors from requiring residents to pay a $200 annual garbage fee to help balance a $52 million budget.

A former county employee, Andy Johnson one week ago started the Facebook page entitled “Southampton County citizens against paying for the use of county dumpsites.” As of Tuesday, the social networking website had 353 friends.

“It was just really surprising, the comments,” said Johnson, a 29-year-old father of two who lives in Courtland and is employed by the Isle of Wight County Public Works Department.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike, the only one to vote against the proposed budget because he considers the garbage fee the largest tax increase in county history, said he thinks the Facebook page is “marvelous.”

“I haven’t seen the Facebook page, but from what I heard, it’s what the citizens want,” Updike said. “I think we should hear them out. I think after the public hearing, the whole budget process should be reopened for reevaluation.”

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 21 at Southampton High School.

Supervisors on May 2 voted 5-1 for the proposed 2012-13 budget, which decreased the real estate tax rate to 75 cents per $100 of assessed property value from 77 cents. After the county’s 12,000 properties were reassessed in 2011, the county experienced a 4.9 percent increase in overall assessments. That means a 75-cent rate will generate the same as last year’s 77-cent rate.

At 75 cents, the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 would pay $750 next year.

Supervisors before the vote were looking at a $3.3 million shortfall. It was suggested they implement the $200 garbage fee to generate $1.34 million.

The fee would be included with tax bills in December. Those who do not pay could have their vehicles impounded.

Updike opposed the fee, saying that only the honest and those able to pay will pay it. To reduce the garbage fee burden, Updike recommended other cuts, including $1,800 paid monthly to retired Sheriff Vernie Francis for maintaining communication equipment for the office and $48,000 annually for street lights in places like Sedley and Darden Mill Estates.

Johnson said he started the Facebook page because some people hadn’t heard about the proposed garbage fee.

“It was really shocking to me that so many people didn’t know about it,” he said. “I really hope to persuade the board to make a different decision.”