City Council Budgets More Money for Paramedics, Lifeguards, Hospital and Cleaning Rivers and Bays

Adopted Budget Maintains Car Tax Rate, Raises Real Estate Tax $15 a Month

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

​The City Council has adopted a budget for the coming year that includes more money for Emergency Medical Services, protecting beachgoers and cleaning pollutants from local rivers and bays.

It also includes $68 million for widening crowded roads and renovating aging schools.

 

The budget adds several major economic development projects to expand Virginia Beach’s economy, including helping to create a biomedical research complex, extending light rail and installing infrastructure to support a privately funded Oceanfront arena.

 

The total budget will increase 2.2 percent – roughly the rate of inflation. The budget has shrunk each year since 2010 when adjusted for inflation and population growth.

 

The City Council adopted the $1.87 billion spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The council made several important additions to the budget proposed in March by City Manager James Spore, including:

 

• Emergency Medical Services: Added $225,000 for two additional paramedic response cars, three additional lifeguards at Sandbridge beach, and recruiting and retaining volunteer rescuers.

 

• Biomedical research: Added $500,000 in additional funding to help create a biomedical and healthcare business development program, including a biomedical park in Princess Anne Commons. This is a top priority for Virginia Beach and the region. The goal is to support and promote the growing biomedical industry in Virginia Beach, with a focus on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience and traumatic brain injury. The additional money brings total city funding for the project to $1 million.

 

• Children’s Hospital: Added $100,000 to help Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters expand at Princess Anne Commons.

 

• Auditor: Added $77,000 for a new auditor position. Last year, the City Auditor’s Office saved taxpayers approximately $400,000 by finding inefficiencies, waste and abuse.
 
• Aquarium: Added $1.1 million to design a veterinary clinic at the Virginia Aquarium, including an observation area for visitors. The Aquarium cares for 12,000 animals and is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Virginia.

 

• Employees: Added an additional 1 percent pay raise above the one proposed by the city manager. That will bring the total pay raise to 2.66 percent. Employees also will receive an additional 1.34 percent to offset mandatory contributions to the state retirement fund and higher taxes.

 

In addition to the biomedical complex, the budget funds two other major initiatives to improve Virginia Beach’s economy.

 

Arena: A developer has proposed a $200 million private arena at the Oceanfront, near the Convention Center. It would be privately financed, built, owned, operated and maintained. The city would contribute $52.6 million for infrastructure – parking, water, sewers, drainage, and lighting – plus $26 million for improvements to nearby roads.

 

The project is part of the city’s goal to create a year-round resort, with more businesses and jobs in one of the city’s economic centers. Funding for city infrastructure would come from taxes on voluntary activities: cigarettes, amusements, participatory sports, hotel stays and meals. No money would come from real estate taxes or the General Fund, which pays for everyday services such as teachers, police and firefighters.

 

The City Council may vote on a development agreement this spring or summer.

 

Light rail: The budget includes money to extend light rail from Newtown Road to Town Center.

 

Building the light rail line would cost an estimated $310 million, with half of that -- $155 million – from the state. The city also would expand the bus network for $3.6 million and would build a walking-biking path alongside light rail for an estimated $17.6 million.

 

The city would fund its half of the light rail line through debt. The annual debt service payment would come partly from a 1.8-cent increase in the real estate tax, partly from an additional $5 for each vehicle registration and partly by redirecting some money from programs that buy open space and development rights in farm areas.

 

The City Council made two changes to the original light rail budget proposal. First, the Council will vote separately, at a later date, on ordering light rail cars. Second, the Council will review each year the need for more money to preserve farmland.


Finally, the budget includes a new, three-year program to stop pollution from running into local rivers and bays. Experts say the best way to do this is to sweep streets often, removing silt and oils. The city will add 10 new street sweepers and 10 new employees over the next three years.

 

The budget includes a six-year plan for major construction projects. For the coming year, the city will spend more than $300 million on capital projects, including $36 million for school renovations, $32 million for better roads, $25 million to keep flooding out of neighborhoods and $38 million to improve water and sewer lines.

 

The budget eliminates 239 jobs – 210 from schools and 29 from the city.

 

There is no change to the city’s personal property tax, also known as the car tax. That will stay at $4 per $100 of value – the lowest among the seven big cities of Hampton Roads.

 

The real estate tax rate will rise 6 cents to 99 cents per $100 of assessment – still the lowest among Hampton Roads’ seven major cities. From the 6-cent increase, 2.31 cents will go to school operations, 1.89 cents to city operations and 1.8 cents to light rail construction. For a typical homeowner, the higher tax will be an extra $15 a month.

 

To see a complete list of changes in the adopted budget, click here.

 

To see the complete budget, visit www.VBgov.com/budget.

 

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