April 11, 2018 - Hampton City Manager Mary Bunting’s proposed budget for next year adds funding in three key areas: fighting crime, boosting education and supporting employees. It does that without a tax increase by using cost-saving measures totaling more than $1 million to balance the budget in a year in which revenues are expected to increase less than 1 percent.
“While real estate property values showed an increase for the fourth straight year after several years of decline, modest growth in value and therefore tax revenue did make this budget challenging,” Bunting told Council. “Nevertheless, I am pleased that we are able to recommend a budget that offers investments in some of our top priorities and maintains service levels to the citizens without any increases in tax rates.”
Overall, Bunting told City Council on Wednesday that the proposed FY19 budget totals $471 million, an increase of 0.71 percent. Of that, 43 percent will go to the school system and 57 percent will go toward city expenses, including debt for both city and schools, contributions to regional agencies, and other expenses.
Bunting noted that during input for the city’s "I Value" survey, most residents were happy with the services they receive. However, she highlighted ways that this budget responds to the areas in which a majority of "I Value" participants said they wanted to see more spending: Public schools; streets and bridges; drainage; attracting new businesses; reducing blight; and police uniform patrol.
She addressed each in her presentation to Council, noting that some spending increases were proposed in the annual operating budget while others were in an expanded five-year capital improvement plan that contains strategic priority projects designed to stimulate economic growth (and recurring tax revenues) and improve quality of life.
The additions in the proposed operating budget include:
Hampton City Schools: A $705,626 increase for FY19, plus $350,000 in one-time funding for equipment related to the new academy startups. Bunting noted that the increase brings the city to a new threshold of providing more than twice what the state requires for local education spending.
Fighting crime: The city has added 12 new police officers in the two years. Grant funding initially helped with the costs, but those costs are transitioning to the city’s budget over time. Next year, she would add three crime analysts, as well as additional positions for prosecution in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
Employees: Raises of 2% are proposed for all full-time and eligible part-time employees. While some of that will go to increased insurance costs for employees who have insurance on the city’s plan, those increases are relatively small this year. The schools’ budget is expected to provide 2% raises for school employees as well.
Highlights of the five-year capital improvement plan include: school building improvements, a new fire station in Wythe, a new 911/Emergency Operations Center, $12 million for downtown improvements, watershed and neighborhood stormwater improvements, improvements to Little Back River Road, improvements to War Memorial Stadium, Buckroe Beach and general park maintenance.
Many of the city’s investments are designed to bring returns by growing the tax base and economic activity, while improvements to quality of life and education should draw new residents.
“We are taking steps to grow our tax base and a better future for our community,” noted Bunting. “I firmly believe that our residents, businesses, staff and elected officials have clearly demonstrated that, working together, we can overcome our challenges and chart a bright future for the City of Hampton.”
The full budget details will be released on Sunday, April 15, and available at www.Hampton.gov/budget. Copies will be available for review in the city’s libraries by Monday.