Supervisor discusses issues with proposed sales tax referendum
During this year’s legislative session the board of supervisors asked Delegate James Edmunds to introduce a bill that would allow Charlotte County to hold a referendum on increasing sales tax by 1 cent on certain items with all the revenue going exclusively for school renovations and construction. The bill passed.
We knew we had to wait until our July meeting to pass the resolution to have this on the ballot. I was asked to be the liaison from the board of supervisors to work with school board liaison and county staff and school administration staff in organizing the work to be done.
I was willing to help because I knew it was our county’s best hope for having the additional revenue that is urgently needed for our schools. I hoped that it would also be a way to take off the unrealistic burden we have placed on other taxes, especially real estate.
Here’s the logic, these repairs at schools have been ignored in this county too long. I don’t know why but I know it has to do in part with, in my opinion, poor decisions in the past regarding building a too expensive courthouse, and other wasteful and questionable spending. The school repairs can no longer wait and we had to raise real estate taxes in 2019 20% just because of past decisions. So, here are our choices, we can continue to raise real estate and personal property taxes to pay for these needs, or we can try to find other revenue sources. A 1 cent sales tax increase that was estimated to bring in $650,000 per year seemed like a very worthwhile solution.
During this pandemic I knew it would be an uphill battle to accomplish the work that was needed to raise public awareness so hopefully this would pass. I spoke to this at our June BOS meeting and how I would need the support of staff and all supervisors. At our July meeting, where the resolution to pass the referendum was passed 6-1, I spoke to this again. The dissenting vote to the resolution, Supervisor Walker, accused me falsely of some “agreement” we had. He said I was being misleading and stated “go back and listen to the tape.” I did, and I encourage others to do so to see who was being misleading. June meeting time marker 56:55 and accusations at July meeting, time marker 2:19:07.
The reason I bring this up is what transpired since and brought us to the place we are today.
As stated previously an effort like this requires a lot of people helping. People on this board and others. But I especially needed staff support. In order to buy signs and hopefully do a mailing we needed funds. In Halifax they sent $40,000; half of the funds came from the IDA, with Town of South Boston, Service Authority and Higher Learning Center contributing the rest. I learned last Monday that staff had not followed up with our IDA so I did so. Unfortunately, the IDA declined our request for help, and they did so in a very disheartening manner. Perhaps they could have a change of heart now that they know the facts.
At our committee meeting last Thursday, County Administrator Dan Witt admitted he had not been involved even though he was aware Halifax’s administrator was heavily involved in their efforts. He stated he had remained apart from the committee’s efforts at the direction of a couple of supervisors. While making me extremely upset, this also broke my spirit. I asked him in the meeting and later sent an email to all supervisors and Witt.
One, or even two, supervisors shouldn’t give direction to the administrator outside of public view and against what has been decided by majority in the meeting. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone here but all of us on this board and staff needs to know we are to be looking out for the citizens and our actions are to be transparent. We are accountable to the citizens.
So, bottom line on this, I believe our efforts to possibly bring this forward this year have been severely hampered. But if we give up, our county has lost the opportunity for potential revenue increase of $650,000. The committee, made up of Kathy Liston, Hazel Bowman-Smith, Treasurer Diane Hubbard, Gloria Talbott, School Superintendent Rob Mason, Brette Arbogast and myself, have done our best. I thank all for being willing to serve. I thank Ms. Liston for her efforts to bring this to our attention and get it started. I want to especially thank Superintendent Mason and Mr. Arbogast. This pandemic has been a crushing workload for many but none more than school administration. They both have done everything they could to help with this effort.
Our citizens need to take a hard look at what happened here and asked some pointed questions. Do we want our children to continue to not have the facilities they deserve? Do you want leaders that do things like put a fancy courthouse (had to build a courthouse but not a fancy one) above its school buildings? Do you want a school board to continually have to beg and plead for what they desperately need and forever be at the mercy of BOS on repairs?
We have had an offer of $1,000 to buy some signs. Hopefully, the IDA will have a change of heart and vote to give us some funds as well. Superintendent Mason and Mr. Arbogast, with all that they are facing have asked us to go forward and try to get this passed. I can’t turn them down.
I certainly hope our board members who voted to support this referendum will now speak up now as to their intentions to support, or not.
This is for the children, the schools in which they are educated now and the better financial future we will have for this county if the referendum is successful.
Kay Pierantoni represents the Wylliesburg/Red Oak District on the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors. Her email address is email@example.com.