April 22, 2020 - City Council adopted a five-year spending plan for major capital improvements at its meeting Wednesday, April 22, and began discussing next year’s operating budget for the first time.
The meeting was held virtually, with Council members on a video chat. Public hearings for the budget are also being held virtually. See details below for instructions on how to comment.
The five-year capital spending plan totals $367 million and includes money for major projects. The category of "good government" is the largest share, with money designated for road resurfacing, improvements to Little Back River Road and Armistead Avenue, wastewater infrastructure, and city building upgrades. School buildings are also slated for increased funds for improvements, as are parks.
The spending plan envisions increasing the stormwater monthly fee by $1 for homeowners, with much of that slated for projects that help mitigate flooding and improve water quality. Infrastructure improvements also represent the largest share of economic growth projects. Placemaking projects include Buckroe Boardwalk improvements and artificial turf at Darling Stadium. Public safety projects include a new 911 and emergency operations center, a new fire station and police equipment
The blueprint for the first year of the plan, fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, will become part of the city’s budget. Timing on projects in future years set priorities, but they are subject to shifts and changes.
Assistant City Manager Brian DeProfio warned City Council that even projects in FY21 could be subject to being delayed, depending on how long the COVID-19 shutdown lasts and how quickly the economy rebounds. In fact, he said most new spending for the operating side of the budget would also be on hold.
City Manager Mary Bunting debuted her recommended operating budget in a video last week, noting that it was developed before COVID-19, when revenue projections were strong.
"When we started the process of developing our Fiscal Year 2021 budget, we were on track to experience the best revenue growth since before the Great Recession," she said in her budget message. "The world changed in mid-March, when the federal and state governments began serious efforts to control the spread of the virus."
As presented, the budget totals $516,875,291, a 5.88% increase from the FY 2020 budget. Of this amount, the city’s portion is $287,757,222, or 55.7% (which includes all city and school capital expenditures, and transfer payments that the city collects and disburses on behalf of other entities). The school’s portion is $229,118,069, or 44.3%.
According to the Manager’s Message, "Our top budget priority in FY21 will be maintaining existing service levels by keeping our workforce employed and avoiding any adverse impacts on our staff, like furloughs, as much as possible. If the crisis passes quickly and we have the ability to invest in new areas, those priorities will include the following:
- Salary increase for our dedicated and hard-working employees;
- Recurring and one-time increases for our Hampton City Schools, which will facilitate teacher and employee raises as well as pay scale adjustments and support their transformational College and Career Academy program;
- Increases to fight crime, including new positions for the Police Division, as well as additional funds for enhanced public-safety street lighting and surveillance systems;
- Investments in our housing stock;
- Investments in flood mitigation and flood prevention efforts;
- Investments in our Family Resilience and Economic Empowerment initiatives, such as the youth employment program, youth connect, and workforce development.
In summary, the message says, "If the shutdowns end sooner and the economy bounces back quickly, we may be able to implement new investments at some later point in the fiscal year. However, we must also be prepared in case the shutdowns last for several months more and/or causes deep and lasting damage to our economy and tax base. In that worst case, we may not be able to implement the new investments, and we might even be forced to take additional measures to curtail spending."
More than 300 residents offered input to the budget in the I Value comment period, even though in-person meetings were curtailed. Residents offered their priorities as well. Their top priorities were: Increased police; the resilience programs for youth; enhanced school maintenance; and accelerated staff compensation. You can view that input here.
HOW TO COMMENT ON THE BUDGET:
City Council will meet Wednesday, May 6, for a discussion and public hearing on the budget at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held virtually and broadcast on the city cable channel (Cox 47/Verizon 22) and via live web feed.
In the event City Hall remains closed to the public due to COVID-19, Council will receive public comment electronically. Residents can email firstname.lastname@example.org (please state “Public Hearing - Budget” in the subject line); or call (757) 727-6315. Consistent with the time limit for in-person public hearing comments, those who submit comments electronically should limit what they write to what can be read in 3 minutes or less. Submit comments by May 5 for the May 6 hearing. The final budget vote is scheduled for May 13.