Proposal retains 87-cent real estate tax rate, emphasizes support for schools, public safety
The Henrico County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday received a proposed budget for the upcoming year that retains the current real estate tax rate while increasing operating support for schools and public safety and establishing the largest one-year total for capital spending in the county’s history.
The proposed budget for fiscal 2019-20 totals $1.3 billion across all operating funds, an increase of 5.7 percent from the current year’s plan. The proposed general fund, which supports most governmental operations, totals $918.7 million, an increase of 5.4 percent. The plan provides $322.7 million for capital projects, including a new J.R. Tucker High School and a new Highland Springs High School. Henrico has not constructed more than one high school at a time since the 1960s.
“One of the best measures of a community is the quality of its public facilities,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “I’m proud that Henrico continues to see the value of reinvesting in its schools, parks, libraries and other public facilities. These critical infrastructure projects — exemplified by what we’re planning for the Tucker and Highland Springs communities — are unprecedented for the county and will help fuel its continued growth and success for decades to come.”
Highlights of the proposed budget include:
- No change to the real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value. Henrico’s rate has not increased in more than 40 years;
- A $515 million operating budget for Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), which represents the largest increase — more than $29 million — in general fund support for the system in the past 13 years. The budget would support additional positions to allow planning periods for elementary school teachers, boost special education staffing and provide for smaller class sizes. The budget also would continue to support the Achievable Dream Academy and the CodeRVA Regional High School, as well as set aside $4 million for school bus replacement;
- Additional funding for public safety to support 13 new positions for the Division of Fire, Police Division and Emergency Communications Center; the new medic unit focusing on low-urgency calls; expanded professional development and training for first responders; new monitors with cardiac capabilities for enhanced emergency medical services; a program to refresh firehouses with new appliances, carpet and other upgrades; and two additional positions in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to address the increased workload associated with Police’s use of body-worn cameras;
- A capital budget that continues to fund projects planned as part of the 2016 bond referendum, which include a new Brookland area elementary school, an advanced career education center at Glen Allen High School and the Staples Mill Fire Station. In addition to those school projects and the new Tucker and Highland Springs high schools, the budget provides an additional $2 million for the development of the Henrico Aquatics Center, as well as funding for a Police evidence storage facility; classroom resources at the Police range facility; and a variety of other facility maintenance and improvement projects for general government and HCPS;
- Increasing to $400,000 the threshold for exemption from BPOL (Business, Professional and Occupational License) taxes. Currently, businesses do not pay BPOL taxes on the first $300,000 in gross receipts. With a $400,000 exemption, more than 14,000 businesses would not pay BPOL taxes;
- Additional funding of $302,450 for the Real Estate Tax Advantage Program (REAP), which provides tax relief to residents who are at least 65 years old or totally and permanently disabled. To qualify, residents can have a maximum income of $75,000 and a maximum net worth of $400,000;
- A 3-percent, merit-based raise for all general government and HCPS employees. In addition, $5.7 million would be set aside to reduce salary compression within general government and schools, and support would be provided to HCPS to establish a career development track for teachers;
- A consolidation of the internal audit functions of general government and HCPS;
- Various initiatives to strengthen the county’s “fiscal structure,” which include additional support for the technology and risk management funds, minimized use of reserves for Central Automotive Maintenance operations and an additional $1 million for a reserve fund to offset potential losses in revenues provided by the state;
- Transportation improvements, including $5.2 million for Oakley’s Lane; $1.8 million for an extension of Woodman Road; $2.5 million for sidewalks; $2.3 million for stormwater pollution reduction initiatives; and full-year funding for the GRTC Transit System route enhancements that were initiated last year;
- Continued support for sports tourism, including $10 million for a second phase of development at Glover Park; $4.2 million for Dorey Park renovations; and operating funds associated with the installation of synthetic turf fields at county high schools;
- A new Housing Advisory Committee, which would provide expertise and advice on a variety of housing issues; and
- An average increase in water and sewer rates totaling $2.88 per month for residential customers to continue to meet service demands.
The Board of Supervisors will begin its review of the proposed budget during legislative work sessions scheduled March 18-21. All meetings will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for the session Tuesday, March 19, which will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. The sessions will be in the County Manager’s Conference Room on the second floor of the Administration Building at the Henrico County Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road.
The board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 in the Board Room at the Henrico Government Center. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23. Once approved, the budget will guide operating and capital spending for the year beginning July 1.
Copies of the proposed budget are available at Henrico libraries, the Office of Management and Budget in the Henrico Government Center and at henrico.us.