What will I be voting on November 8?
A series of five questions will ask whether Henrico should be authorized to issue up to $419.8 million in general obligation bonds to pay for improvements to public facilities. Voters will respond “yes” or “no” to each question. The proposed bond amounts are:
- $272.6 million for school projects
- $87.1 million for park projects
- $24 million for library projects
- $22.1 million for fire station and fire facility projects
- $14 million for road projects
Will approval of the projects result in a tax rate increase?
No. Henrico will be able to carry and pay off the additional debt under its existing tax rates. This is possible because the county manages its finances carefully, borrowing only when necessary and making annual payments to reduce its debt. In addition, approval of the bond referendum will not jeopardize Henrico’s AAA bond rating, which allows borrowing at favorable interest rates. Henrico’s real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value stands among the lowest of urbanized localities in Virginia. It is one of the reasons the county has been successful attracting development, investment and jobs.
What projects are planned?
A total of 26 projects have been identified after months of discussion by county officials, including the Board of Supervisors and School Board.
Why does Henrico need the approval of voters to pursue these projects?
Under Virginia law, counties are required to get voter approval by way of a referendum before issuing debt for capital projects. Cities do not have this requirement. Henrico has held several bond referendums in recent decades, including one in 2005.
What does it mean to “issue general obligation bonds”?
Just as a person might get a bank loan to buy a car or home, local governments go to the bond market to borrow money to build or renovate schools or to make other public facility improvements. The county issues, or sells, bonds to investors to get the funds needed. At the same time, it pledges to make repayments plus interest over a set number of years. General obligation bonds are common municipal bonds that are backed by general tax revenues.
Would the meals tax be used to pay for these projects?
Yes. Henrico would use a variety of funding sources, including the meals tax, to complete the bond referendum projects. Voters approved the 4 percent tax on prepared food and beverages in 2013 to provide increased funding for Henrico County Public Schools. The tax now generates more than $20 million in revenue annually, with half set aside to cover school operating costs and half designated for school capital projects. The school renovation and construction projects now proposed with the bond referendum are exactly the kind of improvements that the meals tax was intended to support.
If voters approve the bond referendum, would all of the projects get underway at the same time?
No, construction will be staged over several years. The school projects will be funded over five years, while the parks, library, road and fire facility projects will be funded over six years. To limit its costs, Henrico will borrow money for a project only when it’s ready to proceed.