Highland Board Of Supervisors November Meeting

Financial planning for the future and using those banked funds was the theme of the presentations the Highland County Board of Supervisors received during their regular November meeting.

First up was Highland school superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott, with a review of capital needs for the school system over the next ten years. The list included roofs for both elementary and high schools, bus and vehicle replacements, doors, kitchen equipment and more. The estimated timing of replacement needs was a combination of opinions from experts and warranty expirations. Taken at full value, the total sum is $1.5 million over that 10 year stretch. Dr. Schott stressed that this was in addition to the normal operational budget needs.

The supervisors had asked the superintendent to provide this list as a means of reaching a goal and finding ways to fund the needs, especially for the consideration of future boards. Dr. Schott provided two potential plans – first, the county add $.01 cent to property taxes, plus adding the school’s budget surplus each year – this would fund the improvements, with the exception of shortfalls in 2021 and 2023, when roof replacement is needed. The second plan would be adding $.015 cents to the property tax, which, along with the budget surpluses would fully fund the needs. The supervisors said they had had similar financial planning thoughts, and thanked Dr. Schott for his efforts.

The second presentation was from Betty Mitchell and Nancy Witschey of the EDA, who reviewed the Authority’s proposed incentive plan for approval. The plan would provide grants from $2,000 – $5,000 for new and existing Highland businesses – non-profits are not eligible. The grants can be used for capital investments, lease or purchase assistance for commercial property, renovations or repairs, advertising and marketing, and job training not available through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. The funds cannot be used for operating expenses. The grants are on a first-come, first-serve basis, with rolling applications beginning January 1st.

The Board unanimously voted approval for the plan, and Board chair Kevin Wagner noted the $10,000 allocated for this was not a new budget line item, but rather the accrual of previous allocations to the EDA.

In other items, the Board:

  • Declined to create a gypsy moth suppression program plan for aerial spraying, noting that no public commentary on deforestation issues had been heard;
  • Set a joint public hearing for November 16th at 7:00 to review a conditional use permit;
  • And received update copies of proposed Zoning Ordinance changes for review.

During the public comment period, McDowell resident Kristie Siron proposed a citizen’s committee be formed to address issues she cited with the Highland County Volunteer Rescue Squad, such as slow response to calls and membership concerns. County Attorney Melissa Dowd pointed out that a committee could be formed, but the supervisors would have no authority over the squad itself, since it is a separate volunteer entity, even though EMS Coordinator Chris Vernovai is a county employee. Both Dowd and Kevin Wagner stressed that discussions of this nature were handled in closed meetings, since it dealt with personnel, and even though progress might not be obvious, the supervisors were still aware of and addressing the issue as possible.

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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