VIRGINIA BEACH — Resort city residents’ tax dollars could fund storm water improvements and full-day kindergarten in next year’s city manager’s budget, but not before city council approves it.
David Bradley, director of budget and management services, presented next year’s proposed budget to the Virginia Beach City Council Tuesday evening.
Bradley said a household of four in Virginia Beach could see a $112 increase in taxes over the year, which comes from a higher real estate tax mainly because of assessment fees, personal property tax because of car replacements and a storm water fee increase. This number is based on a median home value of $240,000.
Another cost increase residents and tourists might see are in parks and recreation and Virginia Aquarium prices, according to Bradley.
Beach people could see an increase in the real estate tax next year, which would help fund a full day of school for kindergarten students.
“The schools had request $14 million for implementing full-day kindergarten immediately. That equated to 2.6 cents in real estate taxes,” Bradley said. “The city managers are recommending $6.75 million… that equates to 1.25 cents.”
The money would cover a two year phase-in for a five year full-day kindergarten plan.
“The council has to decide how they want to pursue it, if they even want to support all-day kindergarten,” City Manager Dave Hansen said. “With a six to five vote coming from the school board, that wasn’t exactly a mandate.”
Shifting light rail money
When the city prepared for a light rail expansion, which a referendum nixed last November, it dedicated real estate taxes, part of driver’s licence fees and restaurant taxes to help fund it.
“Our projection at June 30 of this fiscal year is that it will be around $30.7 million,” Bradley said about the light rail money collected so far.
Bradley said with that sum, the city could pay $3.4 million for costs the project incurred, pay back $25 million lent to Virginia Beach by the state for the light rail and use the $2.3 million to fund general government projects, like improving roadways.
Since the train won’t be coming to the resort city soon, staff wants to reallocate the light rail taxes to benefit other capital improvement areas. Here’s how:
- .34 cents taken from the Agricultural Reserve Program will go back to the ARP at $1.8 million a year. Bradley said it could be used to preserve property in transition areas of the city.
- The .22 percent open space restaurant tax will return to the open space fund at $2.7 million a year. This could be used for operations, development and maintenance of existing open space the city owns, like new fences or bathrooms for parks.
- The city raised the real estate tax by 1.8 cents and increased the driver’s license fee by $5. Bradley said .8 cents could help fun storm water projects at $4.3 million a year. The other one cent and the $5 driver’s license fee could go to general government projects at $7.2 million a year.
Hansen said there is still an outstanding $5 million the city may have to pay back to the federal government for its investment in the city purchasing the Norfolk Southern right of way.
“Our belief is, unless we decide to do something else for the Norfolk Southern right of way, the federal government has not requested their money,” Hansen said. “The feds may ask for their money, and if they do, then council has taken steps to lock box it and we can respond to that.”
Storm water improvements
Residential water bills could also increase by $9.12 a year for a higher storm water fee, at about 2.5 cents per day.
Combined with .8 cent real estate tax reallocation from light rail money, the city could be on track to spend $300 million on storm water needs in the next 15 years, according to Bradley.
That would help address problems in the Windsor Woods, Ashville Park and Sherwood Lakes neighborhoods and more, but there’s about $450 million worth of unfunded storm water projects slated for Virginia Beach.
“It’s public enemy number one,” Hansen said about storm water and its grip on Virginia Beach. “I am mobilized with my staff to tackle this head on, to address the issues in all the neighborhoods we have, because we’re a coastal city.”
The public will get a chance to weigh in on the proposed budget on April 27 at Bayside High School, and city council will vote on the budget in May.
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