Highland County Public Budget Hearing
The Highland County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 Thursday evening. This was the first opportunity that residents had to provide the Board with feedback after the budget was published and they had a chance to study specific line items and appropriations.
The supervisors themselves gave little commentary, other than thanking attendees for participation and oversight of the meeting.
County administrator began the meeting by walking everyone through an overview of the budget, which includes a $.02 increase in the rate for real estate and $.25 increase in the rate for personal property to meet proposed expenditures. The floor was then turned over to the crowd.
First to speak was Highland School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott, who once again reiterated his request that the supervisors reconsider their request to reduce the school’s budget by $114,000. Dr. Schott included a potential solution in his remarks – a “caboose” bill passed by the governor provided an increase of $65,000 in state funding. Dr. Schott asked that this be applied towards the capital fund being created for future school improvements, thereby restoring some of the proposed cut. He asked that this be done to keep the schools progressing forward, and a later speaker, a school parent, echoed those sentiments.
By far, the largest point of contention and comments were over the paid EMS Coordinator position. Several speakers questioned how funding works for the position, and the success of goals and suggested that specific line items in the budget dedicated to the position, and whether the squad itself should assist in the funding of it. Many rescue squad members were in attendance, and several of them spoke in defense of coordinator Chris Vernovai, offering statistics in support of spending, recruitment, participation and response times.
Relatively little was said about the proposed tax increase – only two speakers addressed this, both pointing out the additional financial burdens it places on already strapped farmers.
The supervisors will hold a meeting Thursday, April 28th at the county modular building to consider official adoption of the budget.