Bath Board of Supervisors sets public hearing on staggered terms
A public hearing is set for November on a resolution to establish staggered terms in Bath County. At Tuesday night’s Bath Board of Supervisors meeting, County Attorney Mike Collins clarified the procedure for implementing staggered terms. He said the board of supervisors can do it by resolution, which first requires a public hearing. Or it can be done by a referendum, where it’s placed on the ballot. Collins said the referendum must be done by the citizens. There is no procedure for the board to do it.
Supervisor Claire Collins asked if a board member could initiate a petition and Attorney Mike Collins said that, yes, board members can be active individually in getting a petition going. Ten percent of registered voters need to sign a petition to place a referendum on the ballot. Attorney Collins said the referendum is not an idea of whether or not the majority of the public supports it, the idea is to give the public the ability to override the board. He said, for example, if the public were to want staggered terms but a board of supervisors did not. Supervisor Collins said she felt that if the public says it wants the issue to go for a vote what the public is asking is to place it on the ballot, and not necessarily showing support for it.
Supervisor Cliff Gilchrest said people have spoken to him in support of staggered terms and he feels it’s an important thing to do. He said it’s a way of providing some semblance of continuity for the county to prevent an election from bringing in a completely new board made up of members with no experience. Supervisors Kevin Fry and Bruce McWilliams have also spoken in favor of staggered terms. Supervisors Bart Perdue and Claire Collins have said they are not in favor of staggered terms but, said if the issue is considered, they feel the voters should decide.
The board set the public hearing for it’s November meeting on the resolution on staggered terms. The requirement is for at least thirty days notice and the September meeting is less than thirty days away. And in October the board voted to hold a public hearing on amending the budget and it felt that two public hearings in the same month might take too much time.
Supervisor Perdue said his fear is that the board would go through with the public hearing and even if the public says no to staggered terms, the board would push it through anyway on a 3 to 2 vote.
It was also clarified on Tuesday night that the law requires that the school board follow the board of supervisors on staggered terms, where the district seats on the school board would be on the same election cycle as the seats on the board of supervisors.