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* Hampton City News

Posted on: April 15, 2020

City Manager recommends pre-COVID budget for 2021 - but most new spending on hold

2021 cover

April 15, 2020 - City Manager Mary Bunting unveiled her recommended budget for fiscal year 2021, knowing that it will change.

"When we started the process of developing our Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, we were on track to experience the best revenue growth since before the Great Recession," she said in her budget message. "The world changed in mid-March, when the federal and state governments began serious efforts to control the spread of the virus."  

Thus, the budget as printed adds new spending in many areas in both capital and operating expenses. Most of that spending will be delayed until after businesses and revenues improve. The city fiscal year begins July 1, 2020.

As presented, the budget totals $516,875,291, a 5.88% increase from the FY 2020 budget. Of this amount, the city’s portion is $287,757,222, or 55.7% (which includes all city and school capital expenditures, and transfer payments that the city collects and disburses on behalf of other entities).  The school’s portion is $229,118,069, or 44.3%.

No tax rate increases are proposed, but the stormwater fee is proposed by increase by $1 per month to fund projects that both relieve flooding and improve water quality.

Property tax revenues should remain as budgeted. Personal property (car) tax revenues are now projected to be flat. Areas that had been increasing – sales, meals, lodging, admission, amusements and pari-mutuel taxes – are projected to be down through this fiscal year and potentially into the next.

As such, spending in the current fiscal year is already being curtailed. While many cities have laid off or furloughed workers, Hampton has not, but expenditures for the rest of the year are being minimized.

According to the Manager’s Message, "Our top budget priority in FY21 will be maintaining existing service levels by keeping our workforce employed and avoiding any adverse impacts on our staff like furloughs as much as possible. If the crisis passes quickly and we have the ability to invest in new areas, those priorities will include the following:

  • Salary increase for our dedicated and hard-working employees;
  • Recurring and one-time increases for our Hampton City Schools, which will facilitate teacher and employee raises as well as pay scale adjustments and support their transformational College and Career Academy program;
  • Increases to fight crime, including new positions for the Police Division, as well as additional funds for enhanced public-safety street lighting and surveillance systems;
  • Investments in our housing stock;
  • Investments in flood mitigation and flood prevention efforts; and
  • Investments in our Family Resilience and Economic Empowerment initiatives such as the youth employment program, youth connect, and workforce development.

In summary, the message says, "If the shutdowns end sooner and the economy bounces back quickly, we may be able to implement new investments at some later point in the fiscal year. However, we must also be prepared in case the shutdowns last for several months more and/or cause deep and lasting damage to our economy and tax base. In that worst case, we may not be able to implement the new investments, and we might even be forced to take additional measures to curtail spending."

More than 300 residents offered input to the budget in the I Value comment period, even though in-person meetings were curtailed. Residents offered their priorities as well. Their top priorities were: Increased police; the resilience programs for youth; enhanced school maintenance; and  accelerated staff compensation. You can view that input here.

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