Town achieves outstanding rating based on strong financial position; Delinquent tax collection options considered

Last Thursday Town Manager Kim Callis and Finance Director Sheila Cutrell had a teleconference with the Managing Director of VML VACO Steve Mulroy and Deputy Managing Director Taylor Bryant to review proposals for the Fiscal Year 21/22 General Obligation Bond that was included as part of this year’s budget.

VML VACO received eight proposals. The winning proposal comes from American National Bank out of South Boston. “They presented a proposal with a fixed interest rate of 1.45% for 10 years. Truest, which is the merger of BB&T and Suntrust, had the next highest rate with 1.46% for 10 years,” said Callis.

Callis said that both Mulroy and Bryant commented that it was highly unusual to receive this many proposals that were this competitive. When the Town asked for an explanation they were told that banks were very impressed with the Town’s credit and well-managed financial position and strength.

“The total preliminary loan amount is $10,937,000. So in addition to the debt for the new projects that we have begun, we were able to refinance the remaining principal of the 2010 Series VRA Bond Issuance that was originally for $1,995,000; that matures in 10 years but by refinancing it we were able to save $154,990. Our annual debt service will go down by $17,221 with that refinancing,” said Callis.

There will be a Public Hearing in August to discuss this bond and decide whether or not to move forward.

Ben Taylor said that he hopes that the citizens understand “this is a big deal”.

“I dare say that there is another town, city, or locality in the Commonwealth that has the kind of rating of 1.45%. That’s just amazing.”

Taylor said that the Town and the Council “stands on the shoulders of the people before us”. He went on to say that the person that really deserves the credit is Kim Callis.

“Without his leadership and his vision, we would not be in this situation. When he came here as Director of Finance in 2000, we had two months of cash balance. We now have a full year and that’s why we were able to get this rate.”

Taylor said that there has been no real estate tax increase since 2005 and that Callis has refinanced high interest loans.

“When he came here there were 30 year loans. He got them back down to 10 years. He reduced staff from 83 people to 70 people. Structured the finance and management of the Roanoke River Service Authority. He was responsible for the Whittle’s Mill designation. He collaborated with SVCC to make sure that the Advanced Knowledge Center included high school, college, and anyone who wanted to sign up to take a course there.”

Taylor pointed out that Callis has a tough job because he has to say “no”.

“You’re not going to win friends and influence people when your job requires you to say no. I know I’ve been in that boat.” He continued, “Sir you have done a remarkable job in guiding us to get us to this place of financial security. Our local newspaper is putting in letters that people don’t even sign. We deserve better than that. The hyperbole, the criticism, and the stuff that is going on in this community; we’re better than this. I give you a full throated endorsement and full throated thank you for all you do for this town.”

The Town will hold a Public Hearing at the August 9 Council meeting to discuss the adoption of a new Town Code that will allow the use of a professional service to collect delinquent fees.

Finance Director Sheila Cutrell said that the Town currently has Taxing Authority Consulting Services, PC in mind to use for this task.

Councilman Mike Moody expressed his concerns in using this particular firm because they are “not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and have a 1.105 rating”.  He also said that some of the reviews about the company were cause for concern. He asked Cutrell to look into other options in the Henrico area.

Moss asked why it was necessary to obtain this service.

“We have over 1200 personal property accounts that are delinquent and over 170 real estate accounts that are delinquent,” said Cutrell.

When asked by Moss, Cutrell said that her office was typically in charge of delinquent tax collection. Moss asked if the delinquent tax bills were in “disarray” when she started in November 2019. Cutrell said, “I would say yes.”

The delinquent personal property tax accounts total over $129,000 and the real estate accounts total more than $95,000.

“When we lost the [Town] decals, we lost a strong enforcement tool because people had to pay their taxes before they could get their decal,” said Callis.

A motion was made to hold the Public Hearing in August, which passed unanimously. Councilman Joseph Taylor abstained from the vote due to his engagement in litigation in cases involving Taxing Authority Consulting, PC.

“I can not separate my obligation here with my professional interest,” said Taylor.

Alfonso Jiggetts spoke to Council about an issue he is having with harassment. Jiggetts is the owner of a local car detailing business within the Town corporate limits.

Jiggetts says he has witnessed multiple cars parking across the street from his business for about thirty minutes only to drive away when he approaches them. “There are a lot of crazy things going on in the world. I do not know who they are and I cannot get anyone to help me find out who they are. I’m not being treated fair. That’s how I feel.”

Mayor Marion asked if Town staff, in response to his concerns, had contacted Jiggetts. He said that one individual came out to his business and gave him and letter regarding a false alarm ordinance, but he did not name the staff member.

Jiggetts also said that “someone in the office” told him that they only respond if the business has been broken in to. “If I’m by myself and someone decides [they want to cause me harm], then it’s too late by then.”

Jiggetts said that he was asked if he had written down or taken a picture of the license plates but feels that it is not his job to do that.

Councilwoman Luster asked if Jiggetts had contacted the police department while the situation was in progress, to which he responded that he has contacted the police and that this kind of situation has happened “over 300 times”.

He also claimed that “important people” have driven through his business just to laugh at him.

Lillie Feggins-Boone asked if the cars parked across the street from his business were official Town vehicles. Jiggetts alleged that they were.

He said that there are people in this Town that does not like some things that he does to try to help people, but he did not elaborate.

Councilman Ben Taylor asked Jiggetts if anyone had directly threatened him. He answered that they had not.

Gavin Honeycutt asked Callis if the issue had been addressed and what could be done about it. Callis said that he and Police Chief Bowen have had a conversation about Mr. Jiggetts’ issue and feels that they need to meet again and get back to Council with an answer.

Councilman Moss assured Jiggetts that the Council would do everything possible to follow up with your complaint immediately and try to come to a resolution for you.

Luster said, “We want you to be safe and feel safe in your workplace.”