Supervisors vote 5-1 to support budget with $200 garbage fee

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors on Wednesday voted 5-1 to make no more changes to a $52 million budget that calls for a $200 annual garbage fee and reduces the real estate tax rate by 2 cents.

At a 75-cent rate, the owner of a $200,000 property will pay $1,350 in taxes for 2012-13. The rate will generate the same as this year’s 77-cent tax rate after the 2011 reassessment increased property values by 5 percent.

Supervisors Dallas Jones, Bruce Phillips, Dr. Alan Edwards, Carl Faison and Barry Porter support the budget, which will be voted on during a 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, board meeting at the County Government Center in Courtland. Glenn Updike is against it. Supervisor Ronnie West missed Thursday’s work session for personal reasons.

While Faison, who represents the Boykins District, suggested reducing the garbage fee to $100 and increasing taxes by 5 cents, Updike supported 5 percent across-the-board cuts.

Porter, a retired director of finance for Mobile Corp., said across-the-board cuts don’t work.

“Our debt service is $6 million,” he said. “How are we going to do across-the-board cuts? Will we default (on our loans)? The biggest items of the budget we have little control of.”

He also suggested sharing services with the school district and City of Franklin.

“Why do we need two finance accounting departments?” Porter said. “Why do we need separate IT departments? We are going to get healthy and we are going to get strong. You have to go through a transition period to get better. We have to add revenue.”

He added that with nearly the highest real estate tax rate in Virginia, Porter is concerned that raising it would scare off would-be employers. He also does not favor the garbage fee.

“If we don’t get well and take our medicine now, the county is going to die,” Porter said. “We got ourselves in a hell of a lot of debt,” Edwards added. “We are on life support. We have a dead foot that needs cut of to save the rest of the body.”

Faison noted that since 2008, the county has lost $4 million in state funding.

“We have to work together to make this work,” he said.

Phillips, who represents the Capron District, called the budget a long process.

“We have worked on it, thought about it and prayed on it,” he said. “Right now, all the burden of services is on residents. This year we are peaking on debt service. We have got to pay the bills.”

Edwards, who represents the Jerusalem District, said the trash fee is not like a tax.

“As our tipping fee (which is paid to landfills) goes down, the ($200 garbage) fee will come down,” he said. “It will be reviewed on an annual basis.”

Updike, who represents the Newsoms District, begged to differ.

“The people do not want the $200 trash fee,” he said. “It will go on and never come off.”

He also opposes out-of-county students paying $700 tuition when it costs $2,735 in local dollars to educate that student.

The school district has 125 out-of-district students. Therefore, it takes $341,875 in local dollars to educate those students, while $87,500 is collected in tuition.

Updike also felt supervisors should’ve addressed concerns expressed by residents during a three-hour public hearing on the budget attended by about 500 people.