Martinsville City Manager proposes budget cuts, tax increases

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) We told you a few weeks ago the city is facing a budget shortfall and they are trying to decide if reverting to a town would be the right option. Now, it is proposing a few tax rate increases.

The city manager says they are proposing raising the real estate tax, meals tax and cigarette tax. In addition, cutting the schools and public safety budget is also an option, including the fire department.

"We're a very efficient department and we're able to do that with our part-timers for only about $50,000," Martinsville Fire Chief Ted Anderson said.

The department may have to get rid of the part-time program.

"Our biggest areas of expenditures are schools and public safety, so when we look at reductions we have to look at areas where most of the money is spent," Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said.

Some are worried what that may mean with the fire chief telling me what happens when they get two medical calls at the same time.

"Basically took all six of our firefighters out, and we had no call coverage during the time that both of those medical calls were out. Which does happen on a somewhat regular basis," Anderson said.

In addition to fire, police and schools could face budget cuts while the proposal also includes tax increases.

The real estate tax would go up 1.4 percent. The meals tax from 6.5 to 7 percent and cigarette tax from 20 cents to 30 cents per pack.

While the city is proposing all of these changes, they are still tossing around the idea of reverting to a town and becoming part of Henry County, but the county is having its own budget problems.

"We're looking to move some rates to generate revenue. Primarily because we have a jail project that we have to fund," Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said.

Henry County says they have written a letter to the city requesting more detailed information about what they would like to speak about in terms of reversion or consolidation. The city says it is in the process of writing back.

The city has a few more budget work sessions before the budget is presented for a public hearing at next Tuesday's council meeting.