VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — City Manager Dave Hansen presented the proposed budget for 2018 to the Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday.
The proposed budget calls for two tax increases for residents. The total yearly impact for a family of four is estimated to be about $112.
Earlier this month, the Virginia Beach School Board passed a resolution to ask city council for an additional $14 million to implement a full-day kindergarten program beginning next school year. The five-year proposal would phase a number of schools into the program each year.
The proposed budget accounts for a two-year implementation of that program, which is why the city is recommending a 1.25 cent increase to the real estate tax.
The full request would have increased the real estate tax 2.6 cents, but Hansen said he doesn’t want to bump the tax up that far because the school board only voted 6-5 for all-day kindergarten — and he believes that’s not a mandate. After the two-year funding is over, the city plans to look at how the money is being implemented and determine the true cost of the program.
The second proposed increase calls for an additional 2.5 cent tax per household per day for stormwater fees, which equates to about $9.12 per household, per year. That money is to help pay for the city’s stormwater program.
Hansen says the city wants to make a large investment in stormwater improvements. The plan is to spend $300 million over the next 15 years to modify stormwater pumps and drainage, especially in areas that were hit hard by flooding during hurricanes Matthew and Julia, such as Sherwood Lakes and Windsor Woods.
“Attacking public enemy number one, stormwater [and] flooding, here in Virginia Beach is a primary focus,” said Hansen. “Just because you weren’t affected by Hurricane Matthew, you are concerned about living on the coast, sea level rise is real, storm intensity is growing.”
There is $30 million left over from the city’s light rail fund, but voters overwhelmingly rejected the city’s plan to extend The Tide last year.
Now, $20 million of that money will go toward paying back the Commonwealth for a grant that was supposed to help pay for the light rail extension. Another $5 million of that money will eventually go back to the federal government, which also contributed to the project.
From the 2017 light rail fund, $16.1 million will be dispersed back into the budget. Some of that will pay for renovations to parks, playgrounds and other open spaces.
The city has a budget surplus of $16 million. This is the first time the city has had a surplus in nine years, according to Hansen. He says that’s because the economy is better, people are buying homes, eating out, staying at hotels and spending money. The surplus will be used, in part, to add $1 million for tourism advertising and $1.5 million a new Housing and Resource Center.
With this budget, all city employees would be eligible for a salary increase, including a one percent general increase and a one percent increase based on merit. All school employees will earn a two percent raise.
The total cost of the proposed budget is $1.9 billion — a three percent increase over the 2017 budget.