Here’s what’s in the new budgets of Hampton Roads’ 7 cities
It's budget season in Hampton Roads.
Last week was the culmination of months of discussion and planning by city staff and elected officials around the region. Governing boards- like city councils - voted to approve their locality's budget for the fiscal year starting in July.
There were some trends in Hampton Roads, including raises for city employees and relief for residents on taxes paid on the skyrocketing value of homes and cars.
Here's a roundup of the most important points from the seven cities:
- Real estate tax rates will stay flat at 99 cents for every $100 of assessed value of property. A portion of the money -- 4.1 cents -- will go into the city’s Flood Protection Program to build pump stations, barriers, drainage and other projects to combat flooding in the city. Personal property taxes will stay at the $4.00 rate, but they will be discounted by 25% to offset estimated increases in assessments.
- The Virginia Beach Police Department plans to complete the Real Time Crime Center by the middle of next year. The center will be built inside the new police headquarters. It will allow VBPD to improve response to crime and better use systems like ShotSpotter – which pinpoints gun violence with a system of acoustic sensors.
- The city will also use $500,000 from certain vacant positions to pay a contractor to provide mental health counseling to police, fire and emergency services and 911 operators.
- The city council plans to hire a full-time administrator for the Citizen Review Board to investigate complaints against sworn law enforcement officers. The staffer may have a salary of about $110,000. City council voted to create the board last year in the aftermath of protests surrounding the officer-involved shooting of Donovon Lynch at the Oceanfront.
- The stormwater fee will stay at 49.3 cents per day until at least fiscal year 2027 - 2028. The fee offsets the flooding impacts from residences. The city says few of its maintenance and water quality projects are bondable, which means these projects will be funded partly with federal dollars.
- Taxes and fees are all staying the same.
- City employees are getting 5% raises across the board and bringing minimum wage for city workers up to $18 an hour. That means Norfolk has the highest minimum wage of Hampton Roads’ seven cities. Veteran police officers will get additional pay raises.
- City staff will now get six weeks of paid family leave. That’s available for all new parents, whether or not they were the ones giving birth, or for those who have to take time away to take special care of a family member.
- Some new city programs are getting funding. The Center, Norfolk’s brand new homeless shelter on Tidewater Drive, and its associated programs, is getting $2.2 million. It started last year with grants but is getting ongoing budget funding for the first time to cover 27 positions.
- A new “Business Compliance Unit”will have nine new city inspectors dedicated to monitoring permit violations at after-hours business, primarily nightclubs and short-term rentals.
- Several fees and taxes are going up. The food and beverage tax – levied when you eat out at restaurants in the city – is being raised by a half-percent, to 6%. The stormwater rate is going up by $4 per month, to $11.35. It was last changed in 2010 and is intended to fund stormwater maintenance projects to lessen flooding issues and prevent pollutants from entering the system. Fees for licensing your vehicle and the cost of obtaining various city permits are also rising.
- The city’s curbside recycling program is over. Council members voted last year to end the program, among other measures to fund raises for public safety employees. They voted again in March to affirm the decision. In the months since, public commenters have continually asked the council to reconsider, including through an online petition that got more than 6,000 signatures. Last week, Vice Mayor John deTriquet tried to replace the proposed budget with one that includes a $15 monthly solid waste fee that would save the program. The council voted against it 5-4.
- Residents are receiving one-time real estate tax relief in the form of 4 cents on every $100 of assessed value. Council members disagreed on lowering the actual tax rate.
- Minimum wage for all city employees is going up to $15. The process started with public safety pay raises and expanded in recent months.
- The voter registrar’s office is getting a little over $100,000 in federal pandemic relief funding for Election Day materials. The office requested the money as an emergency action. Because of pandemic and other cost issues, the office had to use existing supplies for early voting.
- Water, sewer and stormwater fees are going up by around 5% each. Other taxes and fees are staying the same, though the city is planning a blanket 25% relief package on Personal Property taxes.Like other cities, the assessed value of property went up enough that even with a relief package, the city will still bring in enough revenue for operations.
- City workers are getting a 3-5% pay increase across the board. That’s similar to what city workers around Hampton Roads can expect this year.
- Portsmouth will spend $10 million for school fixes and improvements. About half of that is for sport field improvements at Norcom High. The rest is divided between school roofs at Churchland Academy and Cradock Elementary and fieldhouses at Manor and Churchland high schools.
- The city’s real estate tax rate will go down by 6 cents, to $1.18 per $100 of assessed value. The city previously projected they would have to increase the stormwater fee to cover flood prevention projects, but federal pandemic relief funds and money from the state Community Flood Preparedness Fund can cover costs for now.
- Keeping with surrounding cities, Hampton will raise its minimum wage to $13 for city employees, noting many retail companies in the city already pay above that. City Manager Mary Bunting wrote in budget documents the city aims to increase city minimum wage to $15 an hour by next fiscal year. In general, employees will see a 5-6% pay raise, depending on their current salary (lower-paid employees will get a bigger percentage raise). Sworn public safety employees and 911 operators will get a 7% pay increase to try to address vacancy issues in those departments.
- Hampton residents will continue to be able to pay their tax bills online without a processing fee. Previously, residents paid additional money so the city could process online tax payments but temporarily eliminated the fee using federal pandemic relief funds. It's become so popular, Bunting wrote, that the city will now cover the fee permanently.
- The city will lower real estate tax rates by 2 cents. The new rate is $1.20 for every $100 of assessed property. Tax rates for mobile homes will also drop by 2 cents. City budget documents say this year they expect the assessed value of properties to increase by 14%, which would give the city an additional $25 million without adjustments.
- The city’s general personal property tax will stay the same, at $4.50 for every $100 of property.
- The budget will create 31 new positions in various departments throughout the city. Most – nine of those positions – will be in parks and recreation. The police department will get four new positions and the fire department will get six.
- The budget gives Newport News public schools $2.8 million more, for a total of more than $116,189,307.
- The Parks and Recreation budget will increase by 16% to more than $26 million. The money will increase staff and bolster landscaping services.
- The city is lowering tax rates by 2 cents, but residents will still pay more on average. That’s because home prices climbed 14.6% in Suffolk over the last year, while the 2-cent tax cut only amounts to a 1.8% reduction.
- Residents will get a break on personal property taxes after a massive increase in the last year in car and truck values. The city will tax residents at 75% of the value of a car or truck under two tons
- Most fees will stay the same, though there will be a slight increase in water rates, equivalent to about $1.10 a month for the average household.
Correction: This article previously included incorrect information about Virginia Beach's tax rates. The article has been changed to reflect that tax rates will remain the same under the upcoming budget.