Halifax County voters to decide on sales tax for school improvements

Debate is between tax affecting all, or tax impacting residents only

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – There's a key decision facing some local voters Tuesday. 

On the ballot in Halifax County is a question about how it should pay for the construction or renovation of its high school.

The ballot will ask for a yes or no vote for a sales tax increase of no more than 1%. Some of the money will go toward improvements for the high school.

10 News has been reporting on the building's problems for years. In August of last year, parents got a walkthrough of the building to observe the issues.

In October of last year, a $7,800 study found the soil around the school was too soft to support it.

In April, former Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer helped kick off the fundraising campaign.

The county will either renovate the school, which would cost about $88 million, or build a new one, which would have about a $100 million price tag.

Local leaders said a new school is what’s needed. School board chair Sandra Coleman is among those who have been pushing for the sales tax, urging the public to support it.

“We're anticipating a yes vote. We really are, because we've been really working hard. We've had town hall meetings. We've had radio spots. We've had newspaper editorials,” Coleman said.

If voters say no to the sales tax, local leaders say, in order to pay for a new school, they'll need to raise the property and real estate taxes. Unlike the sales tax, which would pull in money from people who don't live there, property taxes only affect residents.

“I think the sales tax is fair for everybody because everybody will pay their fair share towards the new high school, and we definitely need a new high school,” Halifax County resident Jesse Spencer said.

“Otherwise, the real estate will be taxed, and that's not the best choice. It makes more sense to spread the money over a lot of people rather than a few,” Halifax County resident Robin Yates said.

However, many don't want a tax of any kind.

“I think that we need to look at another option so that it will allow for us to make the necessary improvements to the local high school, as well as provide for the needs of the local residents,” Halifax County resident Danene Stokes said.

Some said a tax increase should be avoided because the local economy isn’t doing well.

The current school was built in 1979. Construction of a new high school could start as early as next year.

Coleman said the county has received donations toward its fundraising campaign and is still seeking support.