County approves budget, tackles recent emergency declaration

By Brandon Martin

The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1 and set the tax rates.

The real estate will be $0.555 per $100 assessed value. Personal Property, Machinery and Tools each are $1.55 per $100 of assessed value.

The effective reimbursement rate for the Personal Property Tax Relief Act on a qualifying vehicle is 41.12 percent. The Motor Vehicle License Fee for cars is $20.75, motorcycles and trailers are $12.

 Members of the Henry County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a recent emergency declaration that was issued due to flood damage during recent torrential rains. Board members are Jim Adams, chairman and of the Blackberry District, (seated from left to right); Tommy Slaughter, Reed Creek District; Debra Buchanan, vice chairman and of the Horsepasture District; Joe Bryant, of the Collinsville District; Dr. J. David Martin, of the Iriswood District, and Ryan Zehr of the Ridgeway District. More rain is expected through Saturday, but Sunday is expected to be sunny and mild, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg.

The budget is expected to be appropriated on June 23.

Also during its May 26 meeting, the board unanimously approved a declaration of a local state of emergency.

County Administrator Tim Hall officially issued the declaration on May 24, following excessive rainfall in the area which prompted flooding in several areas of the county, and power outages. Hall explained that as part of the process, approval of the declaration by the board was required at the next regularly scheduled meeting or at a specially called meeting within 14 days of the declaration.

Public Safety Director Matt Tatum said the declaration enabled his staff and volunteer first responders to streamline resources needed to provide help during the disaster.

“It’s really been a team effort between public safety, law enforcement, 911, social services, neighboring localities. It was really inspirational to see that work taking place,” Hall said. “We were pretty close to having to do some drastic things. Matt and his team just worked until it was done without any regard to anything else, and I wanted Matt to know that, from an administrative perspective at our office, I’m not sure anybody could have done it better.”

Tatum said that the expediency from everyone involved made all the difference.

“All of our volunteer departments jumped up real quickly, the Red Cross jumped in real quickly. Anybody and everybody we called that night jumped in to roll,” Tatum said.

Public safety workers are currently working on assessing damage, according to Tatum who said that there was “about $1 million in personal property damage” with Cunningham Tire being the most impacted following “a structural collapse.”

He said that currently, “there is no knowledge of any type of federal or state assistance for this event,” but that his staff is documenting damages so that the county can get in touch with those affected if funds become available.

Tatum said a rain gauge showed a combined rainfall total of about 18 inches over the past two weeks.

“Keep in mind, that’s within a 10 day period,” Hall said. “I think that amount exceeds any monthly amount that we’ve had in the past twelve months. So we got a month’s worth of rain in 10 days.”

The most recent emergency declaration is the second in Henry County during 2020, according to Hall, who added that he does not “think that we’ve ever had two emergency declarations at one concurrent time.”

Dr. J. David Martin, of the Iriswood District, said, we expect everybody to do their jobs but I think in this instance, with the two declarations of emergency that all of the staff have exceeded our expectations.

Similarly, Joe Bryant, of the Collinsville District, expressed his gratitude for the dedication shown by staff and the volunteers.

“We’ve lost some volunteers over the years but the volunteers that we do have are dedicated,” Bryant said. “They deserve a special thanks because they aren’t paid but they get out, they work hard.”

Vice chairman Debra Buchanan said that because of the coronavirus impact, several volunteer agencies are struggling to keep up with costs for fuel, insurance and utilities. She added that those in her own district Horsepasture — are still waiting on the results of an audit. If the results are not received by July 1, county funds will be put on hold due to the requirement that each agency must have an annual audit before funds are dispersed.

“Certainly, we put that (requirement) in place for a reason,” Buchanan said of the audit requirement. However, “I’m a little concerned with fire departments having to cancel all fundraisers for the past several months.”

Hall said that the provision was implemented for all departments, but that the board could alter that guideline.

Buchanan suggested that after July 1, that if the department can provide information demonstrating that the audit is in the hands of a third-party, then “maybe we can help (volunteer agencies) out a little bit.”

The board agreed by consensus that any exception should apply to all volunteer organizations.

Henry County is served by eight volunteer fire departments and five volunteer rescue agencies. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating may contact one of the following: Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, Bassett Volunteer Rescue Squad, Patrick Henry Volunteer Fire Department, Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department, Fieldale Volunteer Fire Department, Fieldale-Collinsville Volunteer Rescue Squad, Horsepasture Volunteer Fire Department, Horsepasture Volunteer Rescue Squad, Ridgeway District Fire Department, Ridgeway District Volunteer Rescue Squad, Axton Volunteer Fire Department, Axton Life Saving Crew, and Dyer’s Store Volunteer Fire Department.

In other matters, the board:

*Appropriated grants funds in the amount of $48,233, received from the United States

Department of Justice’s Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program, for the Sheriff’s Department.

*Appropriate grants funds in the amount of $10,000 received from the Harvest Foundation to

assist Public Safety in managing the COVID-19 pandemic locally.

*Approved a transfer of funds in the amount of $750,000 from the Administration, Attendance and Health, Pupil Transportation, and Facilities Categories to the Instruction Category.

*Approved an agreement that allows the school board to automatically keep up to $500,000 of any carryover funds, as identified in the county audits, for fiscal Years 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.

*Heard comments from Hall about revenue projections. Hall said that data on sales tax lags for two months, so no new trend has been identified. However, he said lodging revenues were down 53 percent, which is “probably high but clearly understood as why. Food and beverage revenues are down 19 percent, which Hall said is “kind of in the ballpark of where we expected to be.

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