The Bedford County Board of Supervisors voted May 13 to drastically reduce the fee on concealed-carry handgun permits for at least one year.
The approved fee reduction, from $40 to $15, will reduce the county’s revenues by about $40,000.
County supervisors Charla Bansley, Edgar Tuck, Tommy Scott, Andy Dooley and Kevin Willis voted to reduce the fee. Supervisors Bill Thomasson and John Sharp were absent.
The budget workshop was held less than a month after the Bedford County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing April 22, and set a property tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of valuation for property in Bedford County.
The board had been divided on what real estate tax rate to adopt following the results of the recent tax reassessment in Bedford County. According to the assessment, the total assessed value of property in Bedford County is about $10.2 billion, an increase of about $580 million from the last assessment four years ago.
Due to the increase in property values, the current property tax rate of 52 cents per $100 of valuation would set the county’s general fund — Bedford County’s primary operating fund — at about $111 million, about $5 million more than the current budget.
An equalized tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of valuation — which compensates for the increase in property value — would put the general fund at $109.3 million next, a $2.5 million increase.
The board voted 4-3 to adopt the equalized rate of 50 cents per $100 of valuation. Bansley, Sharp, Scott and Willis voted for adopting the equalized rate; and Thomasson, Tuck and Dooley voted against the motion.
During the budget workshop supervisors debated on whether to reduce the fees on concealed carry permits as well.
The county currently charges $40 for a concealed carry permit for firearms and a $30 renewal fee for the permit. Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said $15 of the fees are sent to the state and the remainder of the fee is considered revenue by the county and generally are allocated to the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office’s operating fund. Concealed carry permits are issued by local circuit courts. By way of comparison, the fee is $50 in Roanoke, Salem and Roanoke County.
Bedford County averages more than 2,500 permit applications per year and the revenue to the county — minus the $15 fee allocated to the state — is about $40,000 per year, Hiss said.
“Even though we are to the good on the budget,” Hiss said, “we still have to factor in a loss of $40,000 in revenue in the budget, specifically to the sheriff’s office operating fund.”
Lt. Kyle Williams, of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, said much of the revenue the county collects in fees goes toward county personnel’s investigations into each permit application submitted each year, including background checks.
“It basically is conducted as an investigation,” Williams said. “Each application has to be thoroughly vetted.”
Dooley questioned the motion to reduce the fees, if the funds that would be forfeited would reduce the sheriff’s office’s ability to conduct a thorough background check.
“These checks do not come cheap,” Dooley said. “I will only support this motion if it means we are not taking away any funds from our local law enforcement.”
“I am fine with this as long as the more than 70,000 Bedford County citizens that are not applying for permits are OK with picking up the tab for the 2,500 that are using this service every year,” Tuck said.
Scott said the county should make provisions for any resident exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Any citizen of our county has a constitutional right to bear arms,” Scott said. “I think the county has an obligation to support any Bedford County resident to exercise that right.”
Willis agreed, but said the board should look at the issue next year.
“I’m fine with covering that expense for the citizens next year,” Willis said. “However, this is something that we need to look at again next year because I don’t want to support anything that takes away from the budgets of local law enforcement or first responders.”