By Nancy Lindsey\r\nThe Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday night to approve the 2016-2017 county budget without changes.\r\nThe budget totals $41.9 million and provides a salary increase of at least 3% to all county employees.\r\nFollowing a lengthy discussion and comments from two members of the public, Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, board chairman, said, \u201cWe\u2019ve hashed over the budget and in the end, with state requirements and department requirements, I think we\u2019re ready to go ahead and pass Mr. Rose\u2019s budget.\u201d\r\nBlue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss made the motion to approve the budget, which was seconded by Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris. Voting with Weiss and Harris were Hayden and Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher.\r\nMayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce cast an adamant \u201cno\u201d vote.\r\n\u201cThe reason I support the budget is I think it\u2019s the best we can do at this time,\u201d Hayden said. \u201cI still disagree with the tax increase but I didn\u2019t have enough support on the board to prevent it from happening.\u201d\r\nThe board voted 3-2 March 30 to raise the real estate rate from 54.5 cents per $100 assessed value to 57 cents per $100.\r\nImmediately after the vote on the budget, Weiss made a motion to use 1.5 cents of the tax increase to institute a paid emergency medical services (EMS) system in Patrick County. Harris seconded the motion.\r\n\u201cWe need to delay it until we get more information, talk to people in Franklin County and Floyd County before we jump off the deep end of the pool,\u201d Boyce said. \u201cThis would be a really stupid thing to do.\u201d\r\nHayden asked if Harris, as captain of the Smith River Rescue Squad, had \u201ca conflict of interest\u201d in EMS matters. County Attorney Alan Black said there is no conflict of interest in her case.\r\nFulcher said he thought it was premature to designate the funds without having a plan worked out for spending them.\r\n\u201cWhen we get 10 countywide tones for mutual aid and can\u2019t get someone to drive, it\u2019s bad,\u201d Harris said. \u201cI know something has got to be done.\u201d\r\nBoyce said some plans are being worked on, but didn\u2019t elaborate.\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve been on the board nine years and nothing has been done,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nThe vote was 3 to 2 against the motion, with Fulcher, Boyce and Hayden voting to defeat it.\r\n\u201cThis penny and a half will get sucked up into the general fund,\u201d Weiss said.\r\nHarris said the board also needs to consider that if EMS personnel are paid, the fire departments will want to be paid for their work too.\r\nMarvin Foley was the first citizen to speak during the public comment session. He said the rich people in the county make enough money to go to Disney World, but the poor people can only go to \u201cDizzy World,\u201d by spinning around until they get dizzy, as children do.\r\nThere\u2019s no equity in the system that pays 2% or 3% to employees whether they are bus drivers or administrators, Foley said: \u201cthe 100,000 guy gets a $3,000 raise but the one making $15,000 a year can\u2019t afford to go (to Disney World).\u201d\r\nHe said sawmillers and other manual laborers get up earlier and work harder than people who work in offices, but the blue-collar workers get paid a lot less.\r\n\u201cYou need more bird dogs guarding the henhouse from the fox,\u201d Foley said. \u201cThe money should be spent equally.\u201d\r\nJohn Reynolds said he agreed with some of Foley\u2019s comments, especially the point about across-the-board increases benefiting the higher-paid administrators more than those at the bottom of the pay scale.\r\nMost state employees have higher benefits along with pay, Reynolds said, noting that many people in private industries haven\u2019t gotten salary increases in years.\r\nIn addition, landowners in the county are hit harder by a real estate tax increase than those with small amounts of property, but \u201cyou\u2019re asking us to pick up the tab,\u201d Reynolds said.\r\nHe said he hoped the board would find additional revenue before adding to the burden on private landowners.\r\n\u201cI agree,\u201d Fulcher said. \u201cAs a board we need to start thinking outside the box. There are opportunities out there. We need to stop huddling around and being afraid to make changes.\u201d\r\nWeiss said he continues to be \u201ca fan of the meals tax,\u201d which has now been defeated as a ballot referendum five times. However, Weiss said he thought the meals tax could be put on the ballot by district.\r\n\u201cNinety percent of the meals tax comes from outside folks,\u201d Weiss said.