Plan emphasizes core services and capital projects, adds Sunday hours for 2 libraries
The Henrico County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a budget for the next fiscal year that retains the current real estate tax rate, emphasizes funding for schools and public safety, provides the largest one-year total for capital projects and establishes Sunday hours for two libraries.
The budget for fiscal 2019-20 totals $1.3 billion across all operating funds, which represents an increase of 5.7% from the current year’s plan. The general fund, which supports most governmental operations, totals $918.7 million, an increase of 5.4%. The plan provides $322.7 million for capital projects, including a new J.R. Tucker High School and a new Highland Springs High School. The School Board has approved preliminary designs for both schools, which are expected to open in fall 2021.
The Board of Supervisors has spent the past six weeks reviewing and refining the proposed budget offered by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas. Its amendments include additional funding to begin offering Sunday hours at two libraries. All Henrico County Public Library locations are currently open Mondays through Saturdays.
Beginning July 1, Libbie Mill Library will be open seven days per week, including from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The new Fairfield Area Library, currently under construction on North Laburnum Avenue, is set to open Oct. 6 on a similar schedule, including from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The county expects the cost of the Sunday hours to be $283,864.
“Thanks to the leadership of the Board of Supervisors, Henrico has developed an award-winning library system that serves as a vital resource for the community,” Vithoulkas said. “We are thrilled to begin offering enhanced access to the library system at locations and times that are convenient to all of our residents.”
He added, “The fiscal 2019-20 budget developed by staff and approved by the Board of Supervisors reflects the core needs and priorities of Henrico. It focuses new resources in the areas of education and public safety, keeps taxes low for residents and businesses and makes strategic investments in schools, parks, roads and other facilities and infrastructure. Quite simply, it’s a plan that will allow Henrico to address the needs of today and tomorrow as well as position the county for continued success for years to come.”
The budget will guide operating and capital spending for the year beginning July 1. Other highlights 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 $514 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 supports additional positions to allow planning periods for elementary school teachers, boosts special education staffing and provides for smaller class sizes. The budget continues to fund the Achievable Dream Academy and the CodeRVA Regional High School, and sets 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; a 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 a Staples Mill fire station. In addition to those projects and the new Tucker and Highland Springs high schools, the budget provides another $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 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 will 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% merit-based raise for all general government and HCPS employees. In addition, $5.7 million will be set aside to reduce salary compression within general government and schools, and support will 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 storm water 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 renovations at Dorey Park and operating funds associated with the installation of synthetic turf fields at county high schools;
- A new Housing Advisory Committee, which will 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.