Proposed capital projects paint expensive picture for Halifax County's future

Projects could cost tens of millions of dollars

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – Halifax County supervisors are looking to the future, and that future could be very expensive.

Several proposed projects to improve the county could cost tens of millions of dollars.

For South Boston business owner and Halifax County native Fred Betts, a possible tax increase is not something he's ready for.

Betts has owned a health food store in South Boston for about 30 years.

"It does concern me that taxes could potentially go up," Betts said.

In three to seven years, county supervisors could potentially address the need for renovations at Halifax County High School.

Another thought is to build a new school to replace it.

The high school is the most expensive project on the county's to-do list.

Betts said he is in favor of doing whatever is cheapest.

"I think if you were to build a new school, that's going to cause your taxes to go up even more. So, I think the best route to take is to look forward to renovating," Betts said.

County Administrator Jim Halasz said work is projected to cost between $40 million and $70 million.

 "When you start looking at a school the size of ours, the age of ours, with the limited amount of actual work that's been done since 1979 when it was built, $40 million is probably a pretty reasonable target," Halasz explained.

Halasz said currently, to fund that project and the other proposed projects, the county's real estate tax would have to go up about 25 percent if the projects were all done at once.

"Probably, the Board of Supervisors and the residents of Halifax County are not going to want to see us do that," Halasz said. "So, that tells us we have to be very disciplined, very thoughtful on our approach as to how we phase these projects."

A 25 percent real estate tax rate increase means taxpayers would pay about 10 cents more for every $100 of assessed value of their real estate.

Halifax County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg said he isn't leaning one way or the other regarding what to do about the high school.

"I think it's an exciting process. I think everybody in our community, if you walk in our high school today, would agree that we've got to do something with it. It's a building that needs a lot of work," Lineburg said.

Supervisors are also considering $1 million to $10 million in renovations to the county's elementary schools, $1 million to run water lines to VIR, and $1.2 million for a new fire truck.

"We've just got to look at the elementary schools, see what our enrollment's going to be the next few years, and then do a cost analysis of our buildings and look at repairs. We have a couple of buildings that don't have gymnasiums on them," Lineburg said. 

Halasz said a tax increase would likely have to happen eight to 12 months prior to a project beginning.

"What we have to do for financing is prove to the financial institution that we are prepared to cover that debt service. We would show them through some resolution of intent or from the fact that we have actually raised the tax rate," said Halasz.

The county is also in the process of a multimillion-dollar update to the county courthouse.

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