Highland Board Of Supervisors April Work Session

The Highland County Board of Supervisors April work session featured three public hearings for feedback, but there was little public commentary on either.

First on the agenda was a referendum on raising the rate of the Transient Occupancy Tax. The supervisors adopted this tax in 2013, which allows for a 2% levy on the amount of the charge for any room in hotels, motels or similar boarding establishments, as stated in the Code of Virginia. Highland County was also authorized to increase the levy to 5% after proper public hearings and discussion. The funds would be used for tourism marketing and initiatives. The Supervisors noted that they had adopted the tax at it’s original rate to test the waters, and assure fiduciary responsibility with the funds raised, and that the program seemed to be working as intended. They unanimously voted to approve the increased rate. The Town of Monterey will hold a similar public hearing on the same matter on Tuesday, April 25th at 6:00 pm.

County administrator Roberta Lambert then gave a report on the Proposed County Budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18. Aided by charts showing the various sources of income and expenditure, Ms. Lambert detailed the specifics of the $7.9 million bottom line. The supervisors had chosen not to raise taxes this year, instead opting for a $181,000 transfer from the general fund to balance the shortfall. Of note on expenditures, the school system accounts for 56%, county administration for 33%, social services 6%, comprehensive services 3% and capital improvement 2%. Wayne Walker, a new resident to the county, questioned why Highland’s cost per student was so far above the national average, and Ms. Lambert explained how the composite index of the state, which determines school spending, puts Highland in a difficult situation.

“The composite index takes various things such as adjusted gross income and value of property in the county and the third one is population, and because we have such a small population – we can’t count the non-resident landowners in that population – and that population figure is divided into the assessed  value of our property. And so that makes us look extremely wealthy, property-wise.

(Board chair David Blanchard) How much percentage of our land is owned by absentee landowners?

“Around 50%. So that one aspect of the formula is the one that is skewed the most, because of that.”

Former supervisor Lee Blagg also spoke, praising the supervisors’ difficult job and thanking them on behalf of farmers for holding off on raising taxes, but noting this was temporary at best, and there were no easy solutions to mounting budget issues.

The Supervisors also held a public hearing for adoption of the Enterprise Fund for solid waste collection. The Board will consider adoption of these two budgets at its regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 2nd.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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