Commissioners balance budget; raise levy
By Peggy Mackenzie
Although the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget was on the Greenbrier County Commission’s Tuesday night agenda, the budget of $11.6 million was not adopted until the following day in a short noon-time meeting, and included a levy hike for the first time in 15 years.
“Not any of the three of us wanted to raise the levy rate,” stated Commissioner Woody Hanna, following the 2-1 budget vote, with Commissioner Mike McClung casting the opposing vote, as reported in The Register-Herald.
Commissioner Mike McClung has long maintained that closing the county animal control department and zeroing out the $200,000 for the animal shelter maintained by the Humane Society would save the county money and make the levy hike unnecessary. However, both Hanna and Commissioner Lowell Rose’s arguments to maintain the contract with the Humane Society and staff the animal shelter prevailed. Hanna pointed out that the county’s regional jail also had an estimated expenditure amounting to $200,000 for the coming year.
Although McClung came out on the losing end of the budget negotiations, he praised the process, stating, “There’s not been a raised voice in this room.”
Next year’s levy rate will be 12.93, up from 11.98, which is lower than all but three West Virginia counties. Figures from the county assessor’s office provided the commission with an example of how the rate increase will affect Greenbrier property owners: Relying on a projected 12.98 rate, a 1,000-acre pasture farm (with no dwelling) would go from $1,796.90 per year to $1,831.70 per year, with an annual increase of $34.80.
In other business:
• “April is Child Abuse Awareness Month,” said Mary Carr with the Children’s Home Society, who spoke on behalf of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. She requested approval to place pinwheels on the courthouse lawn as a visual representation of the WV children who annually die of abuse and neglect. A ceremony on Apr. 24 at noon will be held in front of the courthouse. Carr urged Greenbrier citizens to rally their neighbors, business, schools, friends and families to make a difference in the lives of children across the county. By promoting safety, awareness and dialogue, she said, “We can prevent abuse from happening in the first place and help keep our children safe.”
• Director of Homeland Security and the 911 Center Al Whitaker requested the commissioners’ signatures for a Homeland Security grant for $19,000 to purchase 10 powered air purifiers. This is a hood and regulator which will expand the capability of emergency technicians when transporting a person suspected of carrying a dangerous disease.
• Doug Hylton presented a pile of ledgers as physical evidence of the Greenbrier County Historic Landmarks Commission’s survey grant project, ongoing now for several years. He said the records collected will be maintained in the county clerk’s office and available to the public. He said Phase Six of the survey will consolidate all the data, using a grant for $7,000 with a match of $3,000 from the arts and rec fund.
• The Greenbrier County Arts and Rec Committee’s recommendations for the 2015-2016 grant cycle were submitted to the commission, in which $809,576 was requested by nonprofit applicants. Last year the commission allocated $550,000. A motion was made by Commissioner Lowell Rose to limit the allocation to $450,000. The commissioners approved that motion unanimously.
Commissioners Woody Hanna, Mike McClung, and Lowell Rose holding up oversized grant funding checks for the HLC survey, with County Clerk Robin Loudermilk (left), Regional Representative from the Governor’s Office Kimberly Gross, grant consultant Doug Hylton, and Assessor Steve Keadle.