Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why is the City of Martinsville reverting?
This question is best answered by members of the Martinsville City Council and the City administrative staff. Generally, however, cities consider reversion for a variety of reasons. These include financial strain on the city, the lack of growth opportunities within the existing city limits, and past financial or economic decisions that either did not prove fruitful or had a negative impact on the city’s finances.
Q. Do citizens get a vote on this issue?
Under Section 15.2-411 of The Code of Virginia, any city with a population less than 50,000 may initiate reversion merely with a vote of that city’s governing body. City Council, with its vote on December 10, 2019, initiated the process of reversion. The surrounding locality, in this case, Henry County, gets no say in the decision to revert, either through its governing body (the Board of Supervisors) or through a vote of its citizens. So, in other words, no – you do not get to vote on this decision. Henry County worked diligently to convince the Virginia General Assembly to change the law so that residents could have a say in Martinsville's decision to revert. The effort was unsuccessful in swaying the General Assembly.
Q. If the City is allowed to revert, that means County residents will not have any part in the decision nor in the impact that will be imposed on County residents, correct?
As part of the process defined by the Code of Virginia, there will be several opportunities for citizens to express their thoughts and concerns on reversion and its impact on County residents. But neither City nor County citizens will have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the City reverts.
Q. What functions of government will the City most likely give to the County?
The City's decision will force the County to provide schools, courts, and corrections and civil process. All Constitutional offices will become solely the responsibility of the County. Constitutional offices include the Sheriff, Commonwealth's Attorney, Clerk of Court, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, and Elections.
Q. Will my taxes go up to provide these services that the City no longer will provide?
With additional requirements on County government, and based on the history of other reversion efforts in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the tax burden on County residents will go up. How much that burden will increase is to be determined, but it will be significant.
Q. But I’ve heard that we are only talking about “nickels and dimes” when it comes to a tax increase. That doesn’t sound like much. Is that true?
The phrase “nickels and dimes” is deceptive. Even if the County’s real estate tax only goes up by a nickel, consider this: our real estate rate is 0.55 cents per $100 of assessed value. So an increase of “only” 5 cents is really nearly a 10% tax increase. A similar jump in our personal property rate of $1.55 per $100 also would be substantial.
Q. When Martinsville reverts, will city residents become residents of the County?
Yes. City residents would be residents of the new town and of Henry County. They would be paying two tax bills – one to the new town, one to the County. Projections about whether a town resident’s total tax bill would be less than he or she pays now are unclear.
Q. What will the governing body look like?
The Town of Martinsville would retain a Town Council to manage the new entity, but it also would have representation on the Henry County Board of Supervisors and the Henry County School Board. How those seats would be incorporated into the current County governing bodies (the Board of Supervisors and the School Board) would be determined as part of transition process.
Q. Will my children have to change schools?
Maybe. Should the city give up its responsibility to educate its students, then those students will be educated by Henry County. However, any determination of new attendance zones, keeping open any schools within the new town, placing the current city students within existing County school buildings, etc., would be determined during the process.
Q. There is a lot of discussion over a sewer plant being reopened and how that will impact the reversion process. What is the issue there?
There is no issue because Henry County doesn’t own any sewer plants nor have any say in how water and sewer services are provided. The Henry County Public Service Authority provides those services in the County, and it has complete control of water and sewer services and facilities in Henry County. The Board of Supervisors cannot negotiate on any water and sewer issues, because it doesn’t have any say on those issues. Henry County and the PSA are separate entities and have been ever since the PSA was created in 1965.
Q. When will all this be finished?
The two governing bodies can negotiate an agreement at any time; the City of Martinsville can decide not to pursue reversion at any time, or the two local bodies can allow the process to play out through the legal process based on the Code of Virginia. If the reversion effort goes all the way through the system, it will be long and expensive. The best guess is at least 3-5 years, perhaps longer, depending on negotiations.
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