By Taylor Boyd
A public hearing will be held on a proposed one percent sales tax ordinance at the Patrick County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.
The hearing is required after Patrick voters approved a referendum on the tax in November.
Proceeds from the tax can be used only for projects at area schools.
Brandon Simmons, chairman of the Patrick County School Board, said he and other members now must create a plan to spend the sales tax proceeds.
Simmons, of the Dan River District, said he believes paving school sites should be included in the list of projects.
“One thing that’s been talked about for years is the paving that needs to be done on school sites. It’s a lot of paving, and some of it’s in terrible shape,” Simmons said. “In particular, the bus garage area needs to be paved.”
He also noted the board spearheaded an earlier study to help identify various maintenance projects that needed to be addressed.
As a result, “we found throughout the next several years there’s going to be a lot of roof repairs needed. Heat and air systems are going to have to be replaced in the next few years as well,” he said.
Simmons said he thinks proceeds from the sales tax also would be used to build attached gyms to some of the schools, including Blue Ridge Elementary School and Hardin Reynolds Memorial School.
Currently, “the gyms are too far away from the school building, and that distance is a safety hazard for the students. During rainy days, kids can’t go to the gym because they have to walk so far through the” inclement weather, Simmons said.
He added that proceeds also could be used to build rain shelters for bus riders, to protect them from inclement weather conditions.
Regardless of how the funds are used, Simmons said the board worked before and during the election to inform residents about potential benefits of approving the sales tax referendum.
“We chose to work the polls” because it was “the only way we knew to help get it passed,” Simmons said, adding that one member of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Crystal Harris, also helped work the polls.
Given the restrictions on public gatherings due to the health crisis, Simmons said few “people knew about the referendum, or even what it was about. We didn’t really have time to tell everybody about it.”
Simmons said he and Walter Scott, vice chairman and of the Smith River District, began working on the referendum In January, after learning about the project while at a meeting in Richmond.
“We worked hard on that and brought it back to the county,” he said. “The county got involved, and we made a lot of phone calls and did a lot of running, but it worked out.”
Scott and Amy Walker, of the Mayo River District, “handed out some flyers at a couple of events in Patrick County, but by that point, the only option we knew to really make sure people knew what the sales tax was about was to get out on Election Day,” Simmons said, adding he thinks the board’s actions helped in getting the referendum passed.
Because of COVID-19 “there was no ‘Meet the Candidates forum,’” Walker said, and added “we didn’t have many opportunities to talk to the public and inform them about the referendum, and how the money would be used.
“The board discussed going to the polls, and decided it was a good idea,” Walker said. “We felt it was important to work the polls that day.”
Simmons, Walker, and other board members are now hopeful the proposed ordinance is approved so the tax can be implemented.
The hearing will be held at 6:45 p.m., in the third–floor courtroom of the Patrick County Veterans Memorial Building in Stuart.
Supervisors are expected to vote on the proposed ordinance after the hearing is held.