When the Bath County Board of Supervisors met to approve the budget last Tuesday evening, they had already been through multiple work sessions trying to figure out how to reconcile a decrease in revenue stream with the usual increase in needs and expenses. But before they could address that central topic, there was some clarification about the specificity of meeting minutes, held over from last month. The public shows an increased interest in seeing detailed minutes, and when possible, listening to recordings of meetings. According to Board attorney, Michael Lockaby, several cases in Virginia over many years caused the attorney general to issue some conclusions.
“The attorney general opined that there should be a brief statement of every matter that was addressed, of any vote that was taken, and a complete transcription of any resolution or ordinance that was adopted. This has been carried over into the codification of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”
Board Chair Richard Byrd, promptly directed the clerk to continue with the previously used method which was consistent with code.
During public comment, at least four speakers mentioned the need to consider raising real estate taxes to four cents on the hundred dollars. While two board members are staunchly against raising taxes at all, history shows supervisors periodically have raised taxes when the revenue stream shrinks. From 2009 through 2011 real estate taxes were fifty–five cents per one hundred dollars.
While most discussion focused on the two-cents increase in a motion from Bart Purdue, County Administrator Ashton Harrison also commented on the work that had been done to save money on the budget end.
“We were able to reduce our FY 2017-2018 budget by one million twenty-nine thousand two-hundred and ninety-five dollars of the current fiscal year budget.” Still though, that million-dollar reduction doesn’t quite make up for the reduced revenue due to the lowered assessments. And according to more than one supervisor, the million dollars “borrowed” from the fund balance to make the budget work, will take a long time to earn back.
Claire Collins, Cedar Creek District, expressed concern, that the board is not taking a long enough view regarding balancing the budget, using funds from the fund balance, and raising taxes a little bit.
“Are we going to be sitting here next year cutting another million dollars, and then cutting services, because the first service I would say needs to be addressed right away is our solid waste. Our solid waste is doubling this year. Why are we doubling the cost of a service, and yet cutting others? That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Bart Purdue, Warm Springs District, acknowledged the current increase is not likely to achieve a balanced budget.
“I mean I just don’t want to get five years into this thing, not even five year, what three years? Then we’re looking at seven cents all at once. If everything stays the same, it doesn’t go up, we’re looking at seven cents all at once, in like three years.” Despite differing ideas on the amount of increase, the board did vote in favor of fifty cents per one-hundred dollars for real estate, and keeping personal property the same at thirty-five cents. The vote was three to two with Stuart Hall and Richard Byrd opposed.
Also, The board expressed appreciation to Mason Cauthorn who resigned as head of the Economic Development Authority. Along with Wayne Anderson, he was instrumental in bringing the Speyside stave mill to Millboro. If interested in serving on the EDA, please contact the county administrator.