Henrico’s proposed budget would advance core services, economic growth, teacher pay

County also would continue to have lowest tax burden among Virginia’s large localities

The Henrico County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday received a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would retain the current real estate tax rate while enhancing support for schools and public safety and delivering various capital projects, including an addition to Hungary Creek Middle School, a new elementary school in the Fairfield District and a new, permanent South Station for the Police Division.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2020-21 totals $1.4 billion across all operating funds, an increase of 5.5% from the current year’s plan. The proposed general fund, which supports most governmental operations, totals $962.5 million, an increase of 4.8%. The plan also provides $142.7 million for capital projects in fiscal 2020-21.

“The budget proposal before the Board of Supervisors is a true reflection of Henrico County, including its priorities, needs and opportunities,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “It underscores our community commitment to education and public safety by designating 86% of all revenue growth to these areas. It advances critical projects — from new and expanded schools to sidewalks, improved parks and an indoor sports facility. It recognizes and rewards employees for outstanding public service, particularly teachers whose dedication and commitment make difference in the classroom. The budget does all this in a way that remains fiscally sound and conservative, ensuring Henrico will continue to offer residents the highest quality of life and services at a great value.”

Highlights of the budget include:

  • No change to the real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value. The county’s rate has not been increased, although it has been lowered, during the past 42 years;
  • A $542.4 million operating budget for Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), an increase of 5.4%. The budget would support additional positions to allow planning periods for elementary school teachers, boost special education staffing, provide for smaller class sizes as well as designate $3.1 million to implement a Career Ladder for teachers. The program would qualify teachers for additional compensation based on various criteria, which include specialized training and working at schools with critical needs. The budget would continue support for the Achievable Dream Academy and the CodeRVA Regional High School and set aside $4.7 million for school bus replacement;
  • Additional funding for public safety to support 22 new positions for the new Staples Mill Firehouse; an additional $400,000 for Police vehicle replacements; two Police civilian positions — a latent print examiner and a crime analyst — which would allow officers currently serving in those roles to be designated to other functions; and three additional positions in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office;
  • A capital budget that improves facilities and advances projects planned as part of the 2016 bond referendum. It supports an $11.5 million, eight-classroom addition to Hungary Creek Middle and a $34 million elementary school near the River Mill development in Fairfield, provides $12.5 million overall to complete the new J.R. Tucker and Highland Springs high schools and includes $4 million each for Taylor and Deep Run parks. The capital budget also designates an additional $3 million for the Staples Mill Firehouse, $7.8 million to replace Police’s South Station and $2.9 million to begin planning for a new administration building at the Henrico County Government Center;
  • An allocation of $840,586 to implement recommendations of the Recovery Roundtable. The group has identified strategies to reduce jail overcrowding by enhancing substance use treatment and other services to support recovery among those struggling with addiction;
  • Increasing to $500,000 the threshold for exemption from BPOL (Business, Professional and Occupational License) taxes. Currently, businesses do not pay BPOL taxes on the first $400,000 in gross receipts. With a $500,000 exemption, nearly 15,000 businesses — more than 78% of all licensable businesses in the county — would not pay BPOL taxes;
  • Additional funding of $500,000 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, which would be in addition to increases that are part of the Career Ladder program for teachers. Overall, the budget supports Henrico’s goal of being a pay leader for entry-level firefighters, police officers and teachers;
  • Transportation improvements, including $5 million for Richmond-Henrico Turnpike, $2.5 million for sidewalks and $500,000 for planning for a North Gayton Road interchange with Interstate 64;
  • A continuation of efforts to reduce stormwater pollution, with $500,000 for land acquisition to reduce impacts of flooding and $500,000 to identify sections of streams that need rehabilitation;
  • Expanded support for sports tourism, including $50 million in lease-revenue bonds for the construction of an indoor sports and convocation center at Virginia Center Commons;  
  • An additional $1 million for the Community Revitalization Fund to support efforts to buy and rehabilitate houses in designated areas and a new sanitary district to install streetlights in the Montezuma Village neighborhood; and
  • An average increase in water and sewer rates totaling $3.05 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 16-19. The meetings, which are open to the public, will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for the session scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. 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 14 in the Board Room at the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28. 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.

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