The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority on Friday joined the chorus of governing bodies and agencies passing resolutions in support of using sales tax revenue for school construction and improvement when they unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support for the levy of a general retail sales tax.
The Virginia General Assembly has granted the citizens of Halifax County an historic opportunity to impact the educational future of their children for the next century without emptying the county coffers, IDA members agreed during their meeting held in the Southern Virginia Technology Park Friday morning.
The county’s community strategic plan has recognized Halifax County High School needs to be modernized.
Commissioned by the Halifax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, two independent studies conducted by reputable architectural firms have concluded that the Halifax County High School facility has dire needs that must be addressed.
To address school construction needs, community leaders have advocated for access to a 1% increase of the state sales tax in order to generate significant revenue to fund construction or renovation of county schools so real estate taxes may remain low.
House Bill 1634 sponsored by Delegate James Edmunds was designed to make every effort to limit the tax burden on property owners in Halifax County while generating revenue for school construction or renovation.
Edmunds designed legislation to procure partial funding for school improvements through a 1% increase in local sales tax.
A group of Halifax educators, students, business leaders and government officials travelled to Richmond twice to rally the General Assembly to pass groundbreaking legislation to allow citizens to vote for the sales tax increase, and they were successful in that lobbying effort.
On Friday the IDA supported levy of the 1-cent sales tax increase in the upcoming Nov. 5 referendum in an effort to help generate over $100 million.
By approving this local option state sales tax, voters have a one-time opportunity to endorse the generation of between $100 million and $115 million of revenue over a 30-year period - solely for school facility needs, IDA members agreed in unanimously approving the resolution.
Also pointed out is the fact that even the most conservative estimate would mean over $20 million of this revenue will come from visitors outside of this community who pass through to shop, eat or purchase fuel in Halifax County.
By supporting the resolution, IDA board members agree no other mechanism can access millions of outside dollars to fund capital projects than the local option sales tax, which also has been endorsed by the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, all governing boards and the Retail Merchants Association.
For Halifax County, all citizens will pay the same amount of state sales tax, which would move from 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent. Excluded from this state sales tax are groceries, medications and automobiles.
Without the 1% increase of the sales tax, county leaders acknowledge the average real estate owner’s property taxes will surely rise significantly to cover costs of needed school renovations and construction.
By supporting the resolution for the levy of the 1-cent sales, IDA board members expressed unanimous support of the sales tax referendum permitting the county to charge additional sales tax with that revenue being used “for the express and exclusive purpose of providing funding for public school capital improvement and building purposes.”
The resolution concluded, “Once a project for which a referendum is held and approved is completed and all attendant debt satisfied by the increased sales tax and other available revenue sources, the additional sales tax would cease to be charged.”
In other action Friday, IDA members listened to a presentation from Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, who gave an overview of SVHEC operations.
The SVHEC is partnering with the county IDA to advance Southern Virginia’s economic potential through education, innovation and collaboration by providing educational access and workforce training, Adams told IDA members.
It currently is focused on re-tooling Southern Virginia’s rural workforce for jobs in the new economy.
The SVHEC had an economic impact of $66.1 million on the statewide economy in fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018). Of that increased economic activity, $57.9 million of it occurred in the Southern Virginia region, according to Adams who referred to a report examining the economic impact of the SVHEC on the local and statewide economy.
“We pride ourselves on being good stewards of the dollars invested in the SVHEC, and this shows that the citizens of the commonwealth — especially Southern Virginians — are getting an excellent return on their investment,” she continued.
The research showed that economic activity sustained by the SVHEC supported an estimated 481 full-time equivalent jobs in the state and produced $23.3 million in labor income.
SVHEC economic activity also contributed approximately $5.7 million in federal tax revenues and $3.6 million in state and local tax revenues.
Southern Virginia’s economy reaped the most benefits from the SVHEC’s economic activities with 89 percent of the supported jobs and nearly 21 percent of the labor income being concentrated in the region.
The SVHEC, one of five higher education centers in the state, occupies two renovated tobacco warehouses in South Boston offering 200,000 square feet of high-tech labs and classrooms that provide the following five services:
1 – GED to PhD turnkey services, STEM H Outreach, research and development, workforce development and capacity building.
“We’ve got a proven track record,” Adams said concluding her 30-minute presentation to the board.