VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The $1.97 billion operating budget for FY 2017-2018 approved by Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday includes two tax increases to fund all-day kindergarten and stormwater improvements.
A 1.25 cent increase in the real estate tax rate partially covers the $14 million requested by Virginia Beach schools and will support the first year of a two-year phase in of full-day kindergarten.
There is also an increase of 2.5 cents per day to the stormwater fee, which will be used to fix the city’s outdated stormwater system and mitigate flooding.
After hearing from residents and discussing options, council increased the amount of funding for stormwater projects from .8 cents to 1 cent, which added another $1.1 million a year for the improvements. Altogether, the budget includes more than $43 million in funding for stormwater projects next year and more than $300 million in stormwater projects over the next 15 years.
The total yearly impact of these increases for a family of four is estimated to be about $112.
There are no increases in tax rates for personal property, cars or trash and no rate increases.
The budget will also reallocate funds originally slated to pay for light rail to pay for general government expenditures such as flood control and transportation projects. Council also approved a six-year capital plan that will fund construction projects from the Lesner Bridge to replacing schools and alleviating flooding.
The budget also provides a two percents raise for full and part-time employees and will help to create 145 additional positions. The city said these were positions that were eliminated due to budget cuts during the recession. Thirty-seven of the positions are for public safety, 23 are for public works infrastructure, 12 are for the new housing resource center and 45 are in human services.
Other notable parts of the budget include:
- Returning .34 cents of the real estate tax to the Agricultural Reserve Program (ARP) to preserve farmland in the transition area
- Returning .22 percent of the restaurant tax to the Open Space fund to develop and maintain existing open spaces and neighborhood parks
- Providing $23 million in information technology improvements
- Funding $12.5 million for beach replenishment in areas like Croatan and Chesapeake Beach
- Focusing $11 million on economic vitality projects such as improving the Lynnhaven business corridor
- Including $47 million for road construction
- Increasing frequency of mowing and landscape maintenance for parks and facilities
- Funding construction of a field house ($4 million in this budget and an additional $36 million in FY 2018-19. The project’s debt will be paid from by the Tourism Investment Program (TIP) fund, which is made up of restaurant, hotel and admissions taxes)
- Expanding VABeachBio to establish the city as a destination for groundbreaking biomedical research and development as well as the headquarters for leading innovators in the biomedical sciences
- Adding 40 new teaching positions that will be strategically allocated to reduce class sizes in secondary schools
- Building new three-bay Fire and EMS station to serve the Burton Station area ($6 million)
- Staffing and operating the Housing Resource Center, scheduled to open in April 2018; a 62,000 square-foot facility that will replace and expand existing homeless services. The center has been assigned nearly $30 million in funding for this budget cycle
- Investing $78.5 million to support the construction of a privately financed sports and entertainment arena with improvements in roads, streetscape, lighting, landscaping, water and sewer and stormwater. Debt on this project will be paid from the TIP fund as well as a $1 per room-night increase in the hotel tax over five years
- Replacing Health Department’s old dental x-ray machine at a cost of more than $78,000 so clinicians can more efficiently deliver services to approximately 400 low-income children in our community
- Replacing the helicopters the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) uses ($4.5 million)
- Funding for second-year of a four-year phase-in of police body cameras
- Adding 10 new police officer positions
- Implementing new inmate tracking and status monitoring equipment at a cost of a little more than $1 million and adding staff in the Sheriff’s Department to help escort medical staff, accompany inmates to medical appointments and provide hospital watches for inmates admitted for treatment
- Creating a fifth battalion in the Virginia Beach Fire Department
- Adding 6 paramedics in Emergency Medical Services
- Adding staffing to enable the 311 Citizen Service Call Center to operate 24 hours a day
- Funding $1 million to continue construction of the City’s Next Generation Network which provides additional bandwidth to meet service demands and enhance communication among municipal agencies
- Enhancing the visitor experiences and expand the Marsh Pavilion at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. The $13.6 million project will create children’s exhibit play areas, renovate existing exhibit areas, modify the trail and outdoor theater, build a more welcoming entrance, refurbish the gift store, and more