Library Director Jay Stephens

Library Director Jay Stephens recognizes awards the Halifax County-South Boston Public Library System recently received from the Virginia Public Library Directors Association during the South Boston Council meeting Monday. Joining him are Hope Harris-Gayles and Amy Cole of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, a program sponsor.

No one spoke from the public on South Boston’s proposed $10,665,703 budget plan when town council met and held its required public hearing Monday night.

The final reading and adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 10, and in the meantime citizens are invited to review copies of the full budget available through the town office.

The draft town budget, first unveiled in March, calls for no tax and fee hikes and includes performance-based pay increases for all employees including a $15 minimum wage for town employees with two years of experience, so town workers making $12.50 an hour will see their wages rise to $15 an hour.

It also includes a 50 cent-an-hour raise for employees making up to $60,000 annually that translates into a $1,040 increase for full-time employees.

These raises were made possible thanks to adoption of a 10-cent cigarette tax approved last September on the promise that monies generated from the tax would be earmarked to increase the salaries of town employees making less than $40,000 per year, according to Town Manager Tom Raab.

Major changes in the proposed 2020 budget include an increase of $104,324 over the current $10,561,379 budget.

Accounting for the changes are funding for an additional fireman and salary hikes and fringe benefits for nine fire department personnel totaling $78,184, raising that line item from $871,995 to $950,179.

The town has budgeted $33,710 for salary increases and benefits for 11 street maintenance workers, with that budget item increasing from $1,731,224 to $1,764,934, and it has budgeted $23,854 for four salary increases and benefits for workers in refuse collection, from $198,686 to $222,540.

The proposed budget reflects a decrease in the street cleaning line item, due to the purchase of a new street sweeper.

Under revenues, the town has budgeted $250,000 for two Virginia Department of Transportation revenue sharing projects.

After hearing no comments on the budget, council unanimously adopted the proposed draft on its first reading.

Council will have a second reading and passage of the budget in June when Raab said he will present the fee structures.

In other town business Monday night, council members heard from Library Director Jay Stephens who recognized awards the Halifax County-South Boston Public Library System recently received from the Virginia Public Library Directors Association at the organization’s annual meeting in Staunton in April.

The library won the award for Outstanding Young Adult Program for the Coding Club. The Coding Club is a creation of library employee Suzanne Reeves.

Participants program Ozobots, small robotic devices, using color coded markers. The Ozobots can be programmed to perform various movements. The Coding Club meets twice each month at the South Boston Public Library.

The library also received the award for Outstanding Cooperative Program for author Beth Macy’s appearance at The Prizery on Oct. 22.

This program was made possible by a partnership between the library and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, along with Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, Southside Community Services Board and The Prizery.

Amy Cole, Judy Ward and Ann Bishop provided invaluable contributions in planning the event.

Cole, who spoke at Monday’s meeting, told council she was unaware of “how big of a problem we have with opioids here until we had that event that night, and we packed The Prizery. So many people came out, and to me that said there is a problem.”

Previously Cole said she thought it was more of “a Southwest problem or a somewhere else problem,” but she added, “It’s everywhere.”

And she described the Beth Macy “Dopesick” program as a “great, informational program that was a collaborative effort for our community.”

Concluding his presentation to the board, Stephens said he wanted to “highlight the really great work that the staff does at the library and the really great partners we have in the community. Secondly, every year we come before this body and other governments asking you to give us support and funding, and I think you need to know what does that enable us to do, and this is what it enables us to do…produce award winning programs like this.”

Also Monday night, council members made the following appointments:

• Charles Newby to the transportation safety commission;

• Allan Smith to the board of zoning appeals;

• Faye Bruce and Larry Clark to the regional library board; and

• Eric Arthur and Tommy Elliott (reappointment) to the town’s industrial development authority.

Paula I. Bryant is the editor of The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at pbryant@gazettevirginian.com.​