Quite an effort for waiving $200 fee

Published 10:33 am Sunday, February 10, 2013

by Art Pope

Attending the last Southampton County Board of Supervisors meeting, I walked away with the sick feeling of voices falling on deaf ears.

However, I found myself in agreement with the majority of the board, stating Southampton is not a business-friendly/growth-friendly community, continually imposing restrictions, not allowing growth and income.

Furthermore, the restrictions on resident landowners wanting to sell parcels of land to encourage forward growth of the community are stopped in their “tracts” by the board’s voting and passing of how many times owners are allowed to split land a few years ago.

No business growth or residential growth equals no increase of revenue for the county, leaving the residents to keep coughing up the “taxes/fees,” which leads me to the next point.

Southampton County residents 65 years or older within a certain yearly income should automatically have the new $200 Solid Waste Disposal Fee made exempt. After all, if the federal and state government think the elderly should be exempt from paying taxes based on their yearly income, wouldn’t our county follow that lead?

However, this is further from the truth using a standard that is an invasion to their privacy, pounding the elderly into submission by evoking so many hurdles for them to jump to receive a waiver.

Common sense tells us the best way to see if a person qualifies for a benefit is to simply ask for proof of yearly income. The Internal Revenue Service does not ask how much I have in my savings account, but simply wants to know the income I made from the interest earned on my savings.

The board developed a reduction fee application, which a person must present with the original documents, not copies, to prove what each household is worth. Statements include salaries, wages, pension, retirement, Social Security, IRAs, interest earned, dividends, SSI, rental income, fuel assistance, food stamps, capital gains, trust-fund income, real estate values, including how many gravesites you own and the worth, automobiles Kelly Blue Book value, savings accounts, savings certificates, checking accounts with account numbers and balances, cash on hand including what you have in your pocket, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies and documented proof of what each one is worth and the cash-in value, property held in trust and any other assets.

After gathering all of these documents, they go back to the office, wait three hours to turn them in to see if they qualify for a meeting, to which once approved for the meeting to review the documents, they can then be approved to go back again to find out how much they qualify for a reduction on the $200 fee.

Ask yourself, who is looking at all my information, someone bonded? No, a part-time person for a few months’ worth of work.

Commissioner of Revenue Amy Carr was asked at the meeting how many have applied, and she stated approximately 340 and nearly 100 percent where eligible for the fee reduction. Wonder how much money we could have saved this county if we followed suit of the federal government and Virginia by asking individuals what their yearly income is rather than our residents’ worth?

Ask yourselves, why did council members try to impose a “fee” on us rather than increasing our taxes a little? Between 2010 and 2013, revenue from Southampton County residents was increased $2.8 million, $1.3 million from the Solid Waste Removal Fee, which equates to approximately a 13.9 percent increase in revenue.

The Southampton Board imposing a “fee” looks more “palatable” to a resident than raising our taxes almost 13.9 percent.

Unemployment in this county is higher than the state average, and never mind, I know I did not receive a 13.9 percent cost-of-living raise in my paycheck.

Southampton County residents have been paying for the solid waste removal the entire time with our taxes and yet my tax bill did not go down. Instead I am paying the same taxes plus the separate fee charge.

Bottom line: Lift restrictions on growth, allow a cash flow we all can afford, stop the county supervisors from invading the privacy of the elderly over a $200 fee.

We also need a change in thought process regarding waiver requirements and have it based on “yearly income earned.” Pressuring the few elderly, having them wait three hours in line at the county office just to be told they need more documents is to whose benefit?

I don’t remember even getting a garbage can out of this deal. Did you?

ART POPE is a Capron resident and can be reached at ArtPopeJr@gmail.com.