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Reversion study released, residents concerned about possible tax hike

By Nadine Maeser, nmaeser@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:48:51 PM EST
Updated On: Nov 19 2013 09:52:05 PM EST

If that happens, taxes could go up for residents, and they're worried.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -

It was a packed house inside the Martinsville City Council chambers Monday night.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki released the results of the reversion study to council and the general public.

Now the question is will city leaders move ahead with converting the city into a town?

The city of Martinsville is looking for a solution as the cost to operate keeps increasing while its revenue does not.

"Eventually at some point some decisions will need to be made as to which direction we need to move forward with this,” said Towarnicki.

According to Towarnicki’s presentation, the city has been using its fund balance as a crutch for the annual budget.

City leaders have considered reverting for years, but no decision has been made.

Aside from turning the city into a town, city leaders are also considering consolidating the Martinsville City School System with the Henry County School System, but that decision could mean the elimination of jobs.

"That's how you’re going to save some of the money,” said Martinsville City Councilman Danny Turner. “Of course you don’t need as many in the administration when you put them together."

Three separate independent studies were done to help evaluate if turning the city into a town would be a good idea. It looked into consolidating the city school system with the county school system. It also evaluated the financial impact as well as outlined the financial forecast for the fiscal year 2014 to 2019.

If the city decides to revert the city into a town that could mean higher property taxes including a 42% decrease for town residents and a 3.2 cent increase for those living in the county.

Word of a tax hike has some people worried they won't be able to pay the bills.

"If they do that they will turn this city into a ghost town,” said resident Ural Harris. “I can’t afford it and I know I’m a lot better off than many in the city."

There are two more council meetings left in the calendar year. City council decided Monday night to let the public speak at both. Those are scheduled for November 26 and December 10.

Council members hope to make a decision in the next few months.