Council gives $10K to DFA

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Franklin’s city council on Monday voted 6-0 with one absent to give $10,000 to the Downtown Franklin Association, and to allocate $144,258 in unspent loan proceeds to the fiscal year 2016-2017 school capital projects budget. The meeting was at 7 p.m. in the council chambers with a brief work session held an hour before in the adjoining conference room.

The money for the DFA will come from funds the city had allocated to “payment to downtown development activity” in the approved budget for the previous fiscal year. The funds will be used to fulfill a cash matching requirement on the part of DFA in order to qualify to receive the $60,000 community business launch grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which was awarded last year.

The money will fund the DFA’s Leap Forward Franklin program, which will provide up to $15,000 to startup businesses in the downtown area to help offset the cost of rent and utilities, with $40,000 going to the Startup Downtown Franklin program to be used for monetary prizes for participants.

A portion of the funds allocated to the school division has been earmarked for the Charles Street Gym.

The council also passed budget amendment 2016-10, which appropriated $256,781 in funding to the city’s streets budget, which was the amount spent last year to repave the stretch of road from the intersection of South and High Street to the intersection of South Main and Elm Street, and the stretch of road from East Street to North Main Street. The funds were appropriated from the Virginia Department of Transportation, which reimbursed the city for the cost of the street repairs.

The budget amendment also included the appropriation of a miscellaneous donation of $2,847 to the city’s Fire and Rescue Department, and an additional $55,690 in state revenues for the city’s streets budget.

The meeting also included a presentation by Donald Goodwin, the city’s director of community development, on the city’s new geographic information system, and a discussion of the city’s laws pertaining to personal property tax exemptions for disabled veterans.

“Finding out where water and sewer lines are, all those layers are here,” said City Manager Randy Martin regarding the new GIS system. “We previously had maps internally for our enterprise zone, which our economic development folks are interested in, but we weren’t able to send them to the website, and our revenue sharing areas, those weren’t even on the map. Now it’s available on the website.”

During the discussion of the city’s tax laws concerning disabled veterans, the city’s commissioner of revenue, Brenda Rickman, said that the law allows disabled veterans to get one free decal for a single vehicle and they do not get a personal property exemption from any taxes.

In 2011, the General Assembly amended the Code of Virginia to allow municipalities to exempt veterans from personal property taxes who are 100 percent disabled, as certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or fall into one of four additional categories: loss of one or two legs, loss of a hand or blindness.

She added that if the city were to exempt all five categories from personal property taxes, which is what Isle of Wight County does, the city would lose slightly over $3,000 in tax revenue per year.

According to City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV, the law only allows municipalities to use the five categories or just the 100 percent disabled standard in granting tax exemptions, and does not allow for percent discounts based on the severity of the disability or non-service-related disabilities.

“It’s not if you are 50 percent disabled you get a 50 percent deduction, and if you have a disability but it’s not service connected, you don’t qualify,” he said. “You can limit it to 100 percent disabled or you can do all five categories; it’s an either-or.”

Ultimately, the council chose not to take any action concerning its personal property tax laws and concluded the meeting by going into closed session.