Martinsville City Council looking to discuss reversion, consolidation

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - As the city of Martinsville continues to struggle with stagnant revenue increases and currently faces a roughly $1 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year budget, city council is now discussing preparing for what Mayor Gene Teague believes is inevitable.

"Several members of council felt like it was important for us to look at maybe consolidating into one form of government with the county. Some of us talked about reversion," Teague said of the council members' meeting over the weekend.

At their annual strategic planning meeting on Saturday, council members discussed the options and ultimately decided that they would like to meet with county supervisors to discuss the options further.

"We do know from a study that we did about four years ago that the city would save about $3 million if we were to go through the reversion process," Teague explained.

He said the city saw this coming in 2012 and tried to address it then by taking a vote, but only he and one other council member voted to revert so he and the other council member lost three to two.

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said he is open to having a discussion with the city council, but ultimately the city can choose to do whatever it wants and the county would be forced to accept the decision.

"If the city chooses to pursue reversion, then the county will work to mitigate the impact on everybody," Hall emphasized. "But, it's not a city county decision. It's completely up to the city."

He said it's too early to say exactly how the county would go about mitigating the impact.

"If the city chooses to start the process of reversion, then clearly we'll get together. If there is some desire to have meetings prior to that, the city can convey that to us and I'll take it to the elected body and see what it wants to do," said Hall.

Teague council has not set a deadline to make a decision.

South Boston reverted to a town in 1995.

The process took about two years to complete.

One of the biggest benefits was that the city was able to reduce its property tax from 84 cents per $100 to 19 cents.

Jane Jones, assistant to the town manager, remembers the town's reversion well and said now that there is a precedent set on how to handle the process Martinsville might have an easier time.

But, she says there will likely still be challenges.

"Citizens were actually paying less, but it was a county bill twice a year. A lot of people just didn't understand; 'Why? Why is the county billing me? I'm a town resident,'" Jones said of South Boston's reversion.

South Boston was the first city in Virginia to ever revert to a town.

In 2011, the city of Bedford reverted back to a town.

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