Hampton city manager proposes lower property tax rate, staff measures

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Posted at 9:15 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 21:15:21-04

HAMPTON, Va. - Hampton City Manager Mary Bunting has released her recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes a combination of tax relief and targeted new spending.

The tax relief includes a proposed 6-cent reduction in the tax rate for property (from $1.24 per $100 to $1.18), valuing automobiles at only 75% of their value for tax purposes, and ending the local portion of sales tax on groceries.

There are no proposed fee increases.

Between the automobile tax reduction Hampton City Council already approved for June 5 and what is in the Manager's Recommended Budget, the tax relief would total $24.6 million.

The total proposed budget is $582 million, with $268 million for schools and $314 million for city operations, including payments to outside agencies and debt payments for both city and school capital projects. That represents a 9.7% increase overall.

The city’s portion, however, is increasing only 6.8% — an amount less than the current inflation rate.

The city has a formula that allocates 61.83% of new residential taxes to the public schools.

Bunting’s proposed budget faces changes, as city council will hold work sessions and public hearings before a vote scheduled for May 11. The state has not settled its budget yet, and decisions made at that level will affect local budgets.

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.

The city says 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, which are not reflected in this proposed budget, from a combination of federal COVID-19 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 Hampton City 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

Additionally, schools in Hampton 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.

The full Manager’s Recommended Budget will be released Friday and will be available online here.

Public hearings will be held April 27 and May 4.

Fiscal Year 2023 begins on July 1.

Related: Proposed Virginia Beach budget would raise real estate tax