Supervisors to consider final approval of budget after taking comments on proposed spending plan

Supervisors that include Debra Buchanan, vice chairman and of the Horsepasture District, (from left); Joe Bryant, of the Collinsville District; and Ryan Zehr, of the Ridgeway District, listen intently as Henry County Administrator Tim Hall, (at podium) reads submitted comments during the May 18 public hearing on the county’s proposed budget.

By Brandon Martin

The Henry County Board of Supervisors will consider adopting the Fiscal Year ‘20-21 spending plan at a meeting Tuesday, May 26.

The meeting begins at 3 p.m. in the Summerlin Room of the Henry County Administration Building. A 6 p.m. meeting will not be held.

Social distancing guidelines will be in effect and attendees are encouraged to wear a face mask/covering.

The board conducted public hearings on the school budget and total county budget on May 18.

In compliance with social distancing guidelines, the public hearing did not include members of the public in attendance. Instead, Henry County Administrator Tim Hall read comments that were submitted before the meeting.

Comments were solicited by direct email to Hall or Deputy Administrator Dale Wagoner. A phone number also was provided for residents to use when voicing their opinion on the budgets.

A total of two comments were submitted for the school budget, and five comments were received for the total county budget, officials said.

Bettie Hairston and Henry County Superintendent Sandy Strayer both submitted comments regarding the school budget.

Hairston asked why there wasn’t “a surplus” since “you don’t have the cost if school had been open.” She tied this into the announcement that school employees will not be receiving a raise this year in preparation for potential economic shortfalls due to the coronavirus.

Strayer’s comments were to thank students and families in the community.

“We understand that this is a very unique time for all of us and we appreciate all you are doing to ensure that our students and staff members are appropriately supported in the year ahead,” she wrote in her prepared statement, which was read by Hall.

During the public hearing for the total county budget, Darryl Holland, of Horsepasture, submitted a funding request of $5,000 for the Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District in the 2020-2021 budget.

In his comments, Ricky Walker, Executive Director of the ANCHOR Commission, wished the county luck in the budget process.

Margaret Caldwell, on behalf of the Blue Ridge Regional Library, also submitted comments asking “at a minimum, you provide level funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The library has originally requested a two percent increase so that they could give staff a raise.

“Our Board of Trustees fully supports giving our staff 21st century salaries, beginning with a two percent raise as soon as you are able, so that we may retain and attract the outstanding professionals we value,” Caldwell wrote.

Collinsville district resident Doug Stegall also wrote the board concerning the county’s health insurance. He said he had “no problem with the rank and file getting this insurance,” but he recommended that after an employee reaches the age of 65, that they go on Medicare instead of staying on the county’s insurance.

The county’s Director of Human Resources Michelle Via said that if the county mandatorily switched elderly individuals to Medicare while they were still active employees, then it could be considered age discrimination.

She added that once county employees retire, they have to switch to Medicare if they meet the minimum 65 age requirement.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry wrote to the board, requesting room in the budget to accommodate two new positions at the upcoming Henry County Adult Detention Facility (ADC). Since most of his staff is facing an increased workload due to the coronavirus, Perry asked that the sheriff’s office be allowed to hire a first lieutenant and an investigator.

The first lieutenant position would be responsible for preparing to open the ADC, and would cost approximately $60,000, plus benefits. The investigator position would assist with the background investigations needed to hire 75 new employees for the ADC. The position would cost approximately $48,000, plus benefits.

“We will do what we can when we can, but we need to see some numbers prior to making that decision,” vice chairman Debra Buchanan said of Perry’s request, which rounded out total county budget public hearing.

The advertised total county budget number moving forward is approximately $157 million, according to Hall.

*Dr. J. David Martin, of the Iriswood District, was not present at the meeting.

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