Plan would advance projects, services after this year’s ‘ultraconservative’ budget
The Henrico County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday received a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would strengthen investments in education, public safety and other core services, provide a generational boost to employee pay and advance key capital projects, including the final ones from the 2016 bond referendum and a treatment-based recovery center for those struggling with addiction.
County Manager John A. Vithoulkas presented a $1.4 billion budget for fiscal 2021-22 that builds slightly on the plan that was under consideration last spring before the onset of the pandemic. Officials ultimately eliminated $100 million in planned expenses as a hedge against COVID-19’s uncertain impacts on revenues.
The proposed budget for fiscal 2021-22 includes a $983.9 million general fund to support most governmental operations. That represents a $21.4 million, or 2.2%, increase over the budget that was initially proposed for fiscal 2020-21 and an $84.8 million, or 9.4%, increase over the plan that was ultimately adopted with the extensive cuts.
“COVID-19 has made this past year challenging in many ways,” Vithoulkas said. “From a budget standpoint, we were extremely cautious last spring and set aside key initiatives, including many capital projects and employee raises, because we did not know then how substantially our revenues would be impacted by the pandemic.
“Fortunately, we have seen revenues outperform our ultraconservative projections as well as growth tied to new construction, the hot real estate market and strong consumer spending late last year. As a result, we have prepared a budget that will allow us to build a stronger, more vibrant Henrico County, with excellent schools, thriving businesses and an unmatched quality of life for everyone.”
Highlights of the proposed budget include:
- No change to the real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value. The county’s rate has not increased, although it has decreased, in the past 43 years;
- A $707.5 million operating budget for Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), an increase of $65 million, or 10%, over the current year. The plan would support additional positions for the fall openings of the new J.R. Tucker High, Highland Springs High and expanded Holladay Elementary schools. The budget also would support the Achievable Dream Academy’s expansion to the sixth grade;
- More than $224 million for capital projects, including the final projects planned as part of the 2016 bond referendum. Among these are a renovation of Adams Elementary School, a new firehouse along Nine Mile Road and improvements to various parks, including the development of Taylor Park, upgrades to Tuckahoe Park and Three Lakes Park and an expansion of Tuckahoe Creek Park. In addition, $54 million would be set aside for career and technical education centers at Hermitage and Highland Springs high schools;
- $9 million for construction of a transitional recovery center, which was recommended by the county’s Recovery Roundtable to help reduce jail overcrowding by enhancing substance use treatment and other services for adults struggling with addiction;
- $22.5 million in new funding from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, which would support various road projects as well as sidewalk and other pedestrian facilities;
- $4.1 million for initiatives to continue to reduce stormwater pollution and mitigate residential drainage;
- $57.6 million for a comprehensive employee-compensation plan that would reward longevity, provide market adjustments for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees, and begin to increase the county’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Overall, the plan would provide pay increases from a minimum of 4.4% for general government employees and 6.9% for HCPS teachers to more than 14% for employees who are eligible for both market adjustments and longevity pay;
- $585,896 to support the creation of a sports authority, which would guide the county’s sports tourism program and oversee sites and venues, such as the planned indoor sports and event center at Virginia Center Commons;
- An average increase in water and sewer rates of $3.05 per month for residential customers to keep pace with service and maintenance needs. Due to the pandemic, officials withdrew a rate increase that was initially proposed for fiscal 2020-21 and placed a moratorium on disconnections of water and sewer service for late or nonpayment.
The Board of Supervisors will begin its review of the proposed budget during legislative work sessions March 15-19. The meetings will be held in rooms 2029 and 2030 of the Henrico County Training Center, 7701 E. Parham Road, and will be available for remote viewing via WebEx. All sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for the one set for 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 16.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 in the Board Room at the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13. 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.