Budget will propose meals tax, service cuts

UPDATED: 11:12 P.M. – Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas will propose a two-year budget plan to the county's Board of Supervisors Tuesday that calls for a 4 percent meals tax and includes some service cuts.

Speaking Monday night at Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson's community meeting at John Rolfe Middle School, Vithoulkas said that the meals tax proposal was necessary in order to close an $18.5-million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

"We are going to have to diversify our revenue streams," Vithoulkas said. The meals tax, estimated to generate about $18 million annually, is "not a sexy conversation, but what it is is the truth," he said.

Despite the economic downturn in recent years, Henrico has avoided raising taxes, laying off any employees or reducing services. But, Vithoulkas said, "the budget I present. . . will not abide by all three of those premises. We are looking at a number of service level reductions."

Vithoulkas, who replaced the retiring Virgil Hazelett less than two months ago as county manager, did not elaborate Monday about what cuts he was proposing.

Should the board decide to proceed with a meals tax, it would need to schedule a public referendum on the issue and win a simple majority of votes in order to enact the tax. The county's first attempt at a meals tax failed by 153 votes in 2005.

Henrico officials had hoped that the General Assembly this year would grant them permission to implement a meals tax without voter approval – a right enjoyed by cities and towns in Virginia – but a proposal that would have granted that right died during the session. In total, 203 localities in the state – including 45 of 95 counties – have a meals tax. The City of Richmond has a 6 percent meals tax but its restaurant sales still outpace those in Henrico, Vithoulkas said.

County officials believe that about 40 percent of the revenue raised by a meals tax would come from residents of other jurisdictions. They prefer that option to a 6-cent real estate tax increase – which, Vithoulkas said, would impact all Henrico residents.
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Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
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State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
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Norfolk man arrested at RIC after TSA catches him with gun

A Norfolk man was arrested at Richmond International Airport May 18 after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it passed through the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 13 bullets.
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Police release photo of hoax bomb

Henrico Police have released a photo of the clock that resembled a bomb that led to the arrest of a Richmond woman in Shot Pump earlier this week.

The device, which the woman told police she purchased at a yard sale, was visible in her car at the Whole Foods at West Broad Village May 19, and a passerby called police, fearing it was a real bomb. Police responded as they would have had the device been real, they said, because they weren't sure if it was real or not.
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Henrico school buses with compliance issue to be fixed this summer


The 176 Henrico school buses that have been purchased since March 2011 will be fixed during the summer, Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks told the Citizen. The bus manufacturers will retrofit the buses at no cost to the school division, he said.

The brake interlock device is required on all automatic transmission buses in Virginia that were purchased after March 2011, which is when the device was added to the state Board of Education's requirements for school buses. As many as 4,000 school buses in the state may be affected, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
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May 2017
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