On March 24, City Manager James K. Spore proposed a $1.87 billion operating budget for fiscal 2015-16. After reviewing the proposed operating budget and the six-year capital improvement program, please provide your suggestions to the following questions:
On March 24, City Manager James K. Spore proposed a $1.87 billion operating budget for fiscal 2015-16.
Several major factors affected the budget. While Virginia Beach’s population has grown slowly since the 1990s, the demand for city services – measured by such things as police and fire calls, library circulation and family support cases – has grown quickly. In fact, the demand for city services is growing 70 percent faster than the population.
Meanwhile, revenues have dropped. Since 2010, city revenues have declined an average of one-tenth of 1 percent a year.
Translation: The city has less money every year, but citizens demand more services.
One reason for that decline in revenue is obvious – the recession. As property values fell from 2010 to 2014, city revenues fell, too. The real estate tax is the single biggest source of city funds.
Another big issue is a sharp drop in state funding. For example, Virginia Beach used to get $25 million a year in state road funding. It now gets nothing. Virginia Beach used to get $364 million a year in school funding. It now gets $322 million – a cut of $42 million. In all, Virginia Beach now gets $77 million less in state funding every year than it used to.
At the same time, Richmond has forced all cities – including Virginia Beach – to pick up some state expenses. For example, Virginia Beach pays $10 million in health care and retiree costs for state constitutional officers and their employees.
As a result, the city and schools combined faced a $41 million budget gap entering discussions for fiscal 2015-16. The proposed budget uses a combination of service cuts and new revenues to make up the difference.
The budget cuts 243 positions – 210 in schools (including 170 in the classroom) and 33 in the city (including closing the Pendleton Child Services Center and eliminating the sheriff’s DARE program).
The budget also includes increases in some taxes and fees, including a 6-cent increase in the real estate tax rate (per $100 of assessed value), a $5 increase in the car registration fee, a 5-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax and a $3 increase in adult recreation center membership fees. Even with these increases, Virginia Beach would continue to have the lowest real estate tax rate and lowest personal property tax rate in Hampton Roads.
On the spending side, the proposed budget includes a six-year capital construction plan of $2.7 billion. This includes such major projects as replacing the Lesner Bridge, replacing the Kempsville Recreation Center, expanding Holland Road, public safety equipment replacements, building the new Housing Resource Center, extending light rail to Town Center, infrastructure for a private Oceanfront arena and improvements to sewers, drainage ditches and fresh water pipes.
To view the entire proposed budget, there are two options:
To explore details of the budget, try our new program – OpenVB. It’s an easy-to-use, graphical alternative to wading through hundreds of pages of technical documents. Citizens can focus on any aspect of the budget – revenues, expenses, operations and capital projects – in great detail. Every detail is available – at the big-picture level or at the level of individual line items.
To explore expenses, go to Budgetexpenditure.vbgov.com.
To explore revenues, go to Budgetrevenue.vbgov.com.
To read budget documents, either in online flip-book format or to download as a PDF documents, visit www.VBgov.com/budget. Three documents are available: an executive summary, a detailed operating budget and a detailed six-year capital program.
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