Highland County Board of Supervisors Hold Final Work Session For FY 2020 Budget – Part 2


Continuing with AMR’s coverage of the Highland County Board of Supervisors’ Fiscal Year 2020 budget work session that was held on April 15, 2019, we’ll move on to discussion over the largest increase to the budget this year compared to last: the creation of a new Emergency Medical Services Department.

At the Board’s April 2, 2019 Meeting, the Supervisors were presented with an optimum budget for the EMS Department at almost $540,000, which would have included eight personnel of a chief, deputy chief, three paramedics and three EMTs.  Since then, after more meetings, the EMS Department request was reduced by almost half to just over $260,000, which will now include four personnel of a chief, deputy chief, and two EMTs as part of a gradual phase-in program.

At the April 15th Work Session, Supervisor Harry Sponaugle said he had heard some feedback and would like to give rescue squad volunteers a stipend or even fuel money if it can be done legally.  The Supervisors agreed to place $12,000 in to the Rescue Squad Volunteer Incentive Program as an additional part of the EMS Department budget.

With the School Board budget and EMS Department budget discussions out of the way, several options were looked at by the Board to move forward with paying for all increases to the overall county budget.  When looking at the looming tax increase decision, Vice Chairman, David Blanchard said, “But to remind people, I mean, this is propping up the rescue squad.  This is the beginning of that process.”

The Board made a decision to raise the real estate tax rate by 4 cents and to raise the personal property tax by 25 cents for Fiscal Year 2020.  Officially, Mr. Sponaugle made the motion to adopt the proposed budget as amended for publication and set the proposed tax rate on real estate at 48 cents and the personal property tax at $2.75.  That motion passed unanimously.

Regarding the county’s Enterprise Fund, which operates the county’s solid waste collection and disposal system, County Administrator, Roberta Lambert, explained that revenues are still exceeding expenditures, even if barely, so there is no need for changes in this fee.  That current fee is $150 a year on habitable dwellings and a range between $75 and $300 a year for businesses depending on density.  David Blanchard made a motion to adopt the proposed Enterprise Fund Budget as presented with no changes, and that motion passed unanimously.

The date for the public hearing on both the proposed general fund budget and the enterprise fund budget will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. at the courthouse.  Both budgets are then set to be adopted a week after that on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. at the county modular building.

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Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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