Few speak on proposed tax increase at hearing

Published 10:58 am Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Only two people spoke on Monday during a public hearing about the City of Franklin’s proposed $56.98 million 2018-2019 budget, which might include a real estate tax increase of up to 5 cents.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the anticipated revenue from the tax increase would allow the city to provide up to $170,000 in additional funding to Franklin City Public Schools. This funding would be used to hire two new middle school teachers and three security guards, one for each school. The balance of the revenues from the tax increase would go toward providing raises of up to 2 percent for city employees.

Mayor Frank Rabil added that the stated 5-cent increase was not set in stone, but rather was listed for the purposes of complying with state laws regarding the advertising of the public hearing. The council could choose to implement a lesser increase or no tax increase at all, he said, but needed to state publicly what the maximum could be.

The two speakers were Dewey Edwards of North High Street and Gary Wise of Willis Road. Edwards questioned the need for increasing the school division’s budget, while Wise said that the proposed tax  amounted to a “double whammy” given that the city had already increased its tax assessment of his home by $12,000.

“We keep throwing money at the schools and getting a little bit of results,” Edwards said. “The county has better schools at a lower tax rate.”

“I moved here three years ago from northwest Illinois,” Wise said. “I have no retirement and no pension. All I get is my social security.”

He also suggested that instead of raising taxes, the city cut costs by doing away with its street sweepers and snow plows.

“I’ve been in a lot of cities over the years, none of them had sweepers,” he said. “People in the south don’t know how to plow snow. I’ve watched snow plows go down the road four to five days [after a snow storm.] He comes bouncing down the road because people have been driving over the road for four to five days, it’s been made into ice. It’s a small truck, it’s a small plow. It’s truly a waste of time.

“In Illinois, they know how to plow snow. They go 24-7 until the snow ends. You can’t clear streets three, four, five days later.”

The council is scheduled to inform the school division of its decision on local funding on Monday, May 21, during a work session at 6 p.m. The council expects to vote on the full budget on Monday, June 4. The budget and any new tax rates will take effect on Sunday, July 1.

In other business, the council accepted nominations for the Ward 4, Ward 6 and at-large seats on the city’s school board. Those seats are held by Marchelle F. Williams, Robert N. Holt and Ron Rusnak, respectively, whose terms all expire on June 30.

Holt nominated Williams for another term, Tom Jones renominated Holt for Ward 6 or at-large and Dale Johnson nominated Kerry Johnson for the at-large seat.

Kerry, said Dale, is an alumna of Franklin High School and Old Dominion University and is a certified, licensed teacher in Virginia. She has two children enrolled in Franklin City Public Schools: a seventh grader at J.P. King Jr. Middle School and a junior at Franklin High School.

According to City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV, per state law only the names submitted that night can be considered for appointment to the school board. The council plans to vote on the nominees on Monday, June 11.

The final matter the council discussed that evening was a request by Greg Scott, founder of the Cover 3 Foundation, for an exemption from the city’s personal property tax for three vehicles: a 2010 Nissan Sentra, a 2016 GMC Sierra and a 2017 Ford Transit. The vehicles are used to transport meals for children from the nonprofit’s Franklin location to various feeding sites throughout Western Tidewater or for other Cover 3 activities. The council approved the exemption for all three vehicles unanimously.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article had incorrectly stated that the school division would use the additional funding to hire one security guard for all three schools.