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6/7/2017 5:41:00 PM
County Employees To Receive Raises; No Tax Hike Required

State Editor
LOW MOOR — Taxes will apparently not be going up in Alleghany County in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board of supervisors released a proposal to provide employees with a pay raise without raising taxes. The board was considering a 2-cent increase on the county’s real estate tax rate to provide the salary increase. The money may now come from the county's undesignated fund balance.

Also, Tuesday, the board unanimously reappointed Jacob Wright to a four-year term on the Alleghany County School Board. Wright, who represents the Boiling Springs District, is completing his initial four-year term on the school board.

The board of supervisors will likely adopt its 2017-2018 budget at a June 13 meeting. The proposed budget totals $70.9 million and maintains service levels currently being offered by the county. Schools will receive level funding. However, an additional $50,000 is included in the budget to help launch a New Tech learning program at Alleghany High School.

The budget also contains money to fund an $8.6 million project to upgrade radio communications. The project is being conducted jointly with Covington.

Over the past month, the major sticking point in finalizing the budget process has been pay raises for employees. In early May, supervisors were prepared to advertise a budget that proposed no tax increases. That was before Sheriff Kevin Hall approached the board and asked that his employees be provided with a $1,500 raise to help boost salaries. Hall said pay in his office has lagged in recent years when compared to other localities, making it difficult for him to attract and retain deputies.

After two work sessions, the board decided that in fairness, it would provide all full-time county employees with a $1,250 salary supplement. The county’s real estate tax rate, which is currently is set at 71 cents per $100 assessed value, would be raised to 73 cents to pay for the raises. Each penny on the real estate tax rate generates approximately $97,000 in revenue, County Administrator Jon Lanford said.

Nonetheless, a budget committee that includes Clifton Forge East Supervisor Suzanne Adcock and Covington District Supervisor James Griffith unveiled a revised proposal Tuesday night. Each of the county’s 155 full-time employees, including those who work in constitutional offices, would receive a $1,000 supplement.

Permanent part-time employees would receive $250. The county has 25 permanent part-time employees. The money would be taken from the county's undesignated fund balances, eliminating the need for an increase on the real estate tax. The salary supplement would be in addition to a 2 percent raise employees are scheduled to receive Aug. 1.

Adcock said the board wants to continue discussions with the sheriff and other constitutional officers to come up with a long-term solution for addressing pay issues in their offices. The county has long viewed constitutional officers and their employees as state employees and has declined to provide a local supplement to salary funding from the State Compensation Board.

Sheriff Hall, who admitted that discussions over the past month became contentious at times, thanked supervisors Tuesday night for their efforts to address the salary issue.

“I know it’s not what we asked for ... but it’s a move in the right direction,” Hall said. “If I stepped on anybody’s toes, or if I hurt anybody’s feelings, I apologize. The $1,000 supplement is a start and hopefully, we’ll work from there.”

Hall made his comments during a public hearing on the budget. Hearings were also held on the real estate tax rate and water and sewer rates.

Water and sewer rates will increase by $1 each July 1 to help pay for debt service on wastewater treatment infrastructure improvements. Residents receiving water and sewer service from the county will pay a combined base rate of $86 per month.

The base rate is based on 5,000 gallons of usage per month. Homes receiving sewer service only will be charged $58 per month, an increase of $1.

Clifton Forge and Iron Gate also pay the county for wastewater treatment service.

Effective July 1, Clifton Forge would pay $4.49 per 1,000 gallons. Iron Gate would pay a flat rate of $12,545.53 per month.

The county will continue to tax personal property and machinery and tools at $5.95 per $100. The real estate tax rate was advertised to be raised from 71 cents to 73 cents. But based on discussions at Tuesday night's meeting, there will be no rate increase.

Griffith said he is pleased to see the budget process coming to an end. The board is scheduled to meet June 13 at 6 p.m. to consider adopting the budget.

“We just need to move forward next year in our discussions with the constitutional officers,” Griffith said.

Wright's new term on the school board will begin July 1. He was chosen for appointment over Roy Hall.

In recommending Wright for reappointment, Boiling Springs Supervisor Shannon Cox said she received several e-mails from constituents who endorsed Wright.

“I was overwhelmed with the number of e-mails I received about Jacob and I was very impressed,” Cox said.

Sharon Supervisor Cletus Nicely and Adcock thanked Hall for his interest in serving on the school board.

“It’s nice when we have choices and people are interested in our community and making it a better place,” Adcock said to Hall.

In other business Tuesday, supervisors:

— Approved the hiring of Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group Ltd. of Daleville to conduct a 2019 general reassessment. The firm will be paid $14.63 per parcel and $10 per mobile home.

— Reappointed Dennis Nelson to the Alleghany Highlands Regional Library Board.

— Reappointed Stuart Graham, Covington District; John Batten, Falling Spring District; Jack Simpson, Clifton Forge East District; and Wanda Davis, Clifton Forge West District; to the Recreation Board.

— Approved a resolution of respect for the late John Hillert of Clifton Forge. Hillert died May 18 at the age of 66. He was involved in several community endeavors, including the renovation of The Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge.

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