A budget allocation of $0 for Smyth County’s public library has been replaced with $660,000 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The new amount is the same as was budgeted for the current year.
When releasing the proposed budget, county officials said they were awaiting requested financial documents from the library. Nonetheless, the $0 allocation didn’t sit well with many citizens. Several of those citizens shared their concerns with the board of supervisors during a Monday evening public hearing on the financial planning document.
Before they spoke, Supervisor Charlie Atkins took responsibility for the zero-dollar allocation, saying the board’s Budget Committee had begun requesting information from the library and was still waiting on that information June 8. Atkins said the committee had received information but not what was needed. However, he said, the information had since been received, and the committee is recommending level funding for the library. The money was moved to the library from the supervisors’ allocation in the budget.
Megan Patrick of Atkins, who described herself as a parent, educator and avid library supporter, said she appreciated Supervisor Atkins’ statement. However, she said, she’d spent significant time over the last week researching and reading about the matter. Patrick said she’d concluded that it’s apparent to her that there’s an agenda to push the library director out.
She advised the supervisors that the handling of the issue doesn’t look good for them or the library’s trustees. Patrick went on to note that supervisors’ chair, Judy Wyant, had recently appointed her daughter, Margaret Linford, to the library board.
Sharon Dishner, a Smyth County school librarian, said she wanted to reiterate Patrick’s points. She urged the supervisors to make sure that business is conducted in a truly transparent manner.
Dishner said she was concerned about $0 being put in the budget to generate an emotional reaction. She asked the board to ensure that its actions are for the good of the county’s citizens and not for anyone’s agenda.
Sandra Wolfe, a retired educator, next took the podium. She professed her love of the library and advocated for Library Director Robb Farmer to keep his position.
The supervisors also received three email comments regarding the budget – all focused on the library.
Patty McAndrews wrote that as she worked in mental health services for 25 years and had repeatedly found the library to be a safe haven for her clients.
Dora Dewell, who is retired from the library, wrote, “Our library is a treasure.” She said she knows how hard the staff works. “If elected to the board,” she wrote, “you hold our trust….”
No one else commented on the proposed $94 million budget. The supervisors are expected to vote on its adoption June 30. The new budget would take effect July 1.
Also on June 30, the supervisors will hold a public hearing on the county’s real estate tax rate, which the board proposes to leave at 74¢ per $100 of assessed value, where it’s been since 2012. However, the reassessment of property completed earlier this year found that values had grown by about 5%.
To adjust the tax rate so taxpayers wouldn’t see an increase in their bills later this year, the real estate tax amount would need to be lowered to 69¢ per $100 of assessed value.
The nickel increase amounts to 7.2% and would raise real estate tax revenues to slightly more than $11 million, which would generate an additional $824,421 over the current revenue amount.
Officials are careful to note that individual property taxes may increase at a percentage greater than or less than the 7.2%.
The county’s real estate was last reassessed in 2014.
In determining a property’s value, Commissioner of the Revenue Jeff Richardson has explained in the past that “the assessors use comparable arms-length real estate sales only in Smyth County.” They also consider the size, condition and location of structures on the land.
The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 30, at 5 p.m. in the board room of the Smyth County Administration Building. The supervisors are also expected to vote on the tax rate that evening as well as any other necessary year-end matters.