VIRGINIA BEACH — Residents of this city will not see any increases in taxes and fees, according to a newly proposed 2018-2019 reconciliation budget.
The compromise also provides $6 million to be applied to pay compression issues that have rendered police and firefighters with what they view as unfair pay scales.
The original budget proposal, recommended by City Manager David Hansen on March 27, involved $7.7 million in tax and fee increases, including increases in the city’s personal property tax rates. Under the compromised budget, those tax increases are eliminated.
Mayor Louis Jones and Council member John Moss acted as unofficial representatives of the respective members of council; Moss acted on behalf of the “alternative budget” bloc, consisting of himself and fellow Council members Jessica Abbott and Bobby Dyer, while Jones understood the thinking of everyone else on council. Jones’ nickname has been “the budget maestro” for years, Moss said.
“He’s been reconciling budgets for decades. He meets with members individually and tries to understand everyone’s red lines,” Moss said.
There is an eight-vote requirement for general obligation bonds, and when Will Sessoms resigned as mayor, that only left seven members of council who typically do not vote with Moss, Abbott and Dyer.
Moss acknowledged that the resignation of the former mayor represented an opportunity.
“This would not have been possible without the resignation of mayor, in an election year,” Moss said.
Negotiations began last week when Jones and Moss met for breakfast to figure out “whether or not there was any space for compromise,” Moss said.
Process of elimination
The proposed tax and fee increases were eliminated by shifting money budgeted by Hansen for lapsed city positions — jobs that have been empty for sometimes up to a year. That freed up $11.7 million, which covered the cost of eliminating the $7.7 million in taxes.
In order to eliminate the tax increases, Moss said there is spending in the Capital Improvement Program that he disagrees with, he was willing to accept them to keep taxes down.
That included Agricultural Reserve Program money, which was proposed to be moved to stormwater projects, but will now stay within the ARP.
Moss, Abbott, and Dyer asked for spending on the proposed new City Hall, sports center and music hall to be split between debt and cash. Under the compromise budget, it will all be paid with debt.
“Ideally, I would have liked everything we talked about in the CIP to be paid with cash. But what we cared about most was eliminating the tax and fee increases,” Moss said. “An environment that requires people to compromise gets you better government.”