May 12, 2022 - City Council unanimously adopted a budget containing a combination of tax relief and targeted new spending for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins July 1.
The tax relief includes a 6-cent reduction in the tax rate for property (from $1.24 per $100 to $1.18) and valuing automobiles at only 75% of their value for tax purposes.
There was one amendment Wednesday evening. The Manager's Recommended Budget had expected the state to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. Since the state has not adopted a budget yet, the $3.3 million was added back into the revenue projection. The corresponding amount was added to the expense side, but will remain on hold until the state budget is settled.
Much of the proposed new annual spending would go to staff initiatives, with proposed raises between 5% and 7%; new positions in some key areas; full funding of the schools’ budget so that teachers and school staff also get 5% raises; and youth initiatives.
Proposed pay raises are varied, with sworn public safety staff and 911 operators in line for 7% increases; civilian staff earning less than $50,000, 6%; civilian staff earning $50,000-$100,000, 5.5%; and staff earning more than $100,000, 5%. The minimum wage the city pays will be increased to $13 per hour.
Hiring staff in some key positions has been a challenge, especially licensed commercial drivers and some skilled trades. To address shortages in those areas, the city will develop training programs to help people develop those skills.
Bunting said she anticipates additional funds and spending, not reflected in this proposed budget, from a combination of federal Covid-relief funds, grants, savings from restructuring debt, and projected year-end savings due conservative revenue projections and tight fiscal controls.
Some of the capital projects proposed or already funded include:
- Security upgrades for the jail
- A pump station to accommodate growth in the Hampton Roads Center North business park
- Acceleration of three resilience projects to improve water quality and reduce damage from flooding
- Improvements to stormwater systems and making a major investment to reduce neighborhood flooding
- Widening Buckroe Beach
- Dredging waterways
- Improvements at Bluebird Gap Farm, Darling Stadium, and Hampton Coliseum
- Increased parking lot maintenance and repairs to the fleet facility
- Replacing damaged guardrails
In addition, the schools are projected to receive $10.28 million for capital projects. The city also intends to demolish the aging Social Services building on LaSalle Avenue and move the staff to leased space.
Proposed new positions include:
- A paralegal, lawyer and part-time investigator in the Commonwealth’s Attorney office;
- Additional codes inspectors to ensure properties meet standards;
- A plans reviewer and zoning official to speed up the development process;
- A small-business liaison to help entrepreneurs through the zoning and permitting process;
- A family support specialist to work with at-risk youth in schools and a team to help needy families;
- A cyber security position and an additional Human Resources person to help fill vacancies; and
- A grant writer and grant accountant to take advantage of funds from other sources.
The Summer Youth Employment Program will add 25 students next summer, bringing the total to about 150 students per year.