Budget proposes pay raise for county employees

Eligible Henrico County employees would receive their first raise in three years as part of Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett's proposed 2011-12 budget, presented earlier this month to the Board of Supervisors.

The proposed $1.04 million overall budget (including a $743.6-million general fund) would represent a 2 percent increase from the current budget, with most of that increase coming from fixed cost increases and new grants.

The proposed salary raise of 2.372 percent would be the first bump since FY 2008-09, and Hazelett said it is be possible thanks to a slightly improving economy and continued reductions to various county expenditures.

The budget also calls for a 5 percent increase in water and sewer rates and in water and sewer connection fees but no increase in the county's real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The water and sewer increases would be used to help fund the construction of the Cobbs Creek Regional Water Supply Reservoir, which will be built in Cumberland County.

Among the proposed cuts: the elimination of 42 vacant positions within general government and 27.5 positions within Henrico County Public Schools' Central Office, and across-the-board operating and capital outlay reductions of 2.5 percent in all areas of general government.

Henrico's general fund revenues have dropped $91.5 million from FY08-09 to FY10-11, but Hazelett said the county's conservative approach to spending has helped prevent officials from having to lay off or furlough any employees during that time.

The anticipated general fund revenues in FY11-12 ($743.6 million) represent a 0.4 percent increase from the expected revenues in FY10-11. County officials anticipate about $273.2 million in property tax revenues during the coming fiscal year – a dip of nearly $3 million from the current budget year – but a slight 1.2 percent increase ($1.2 million) in personal property tax revenues.

Though state funding for education is projected to increase 2.8 percent to $204.7 million, that amount is still less than the county received five years ago. During that time, Hazelett noted, the school system has added nearly 1,000 students and opened five new schools.

Other highlights of the proposed budget include:

• nearly $800,000 in operating costs associated with the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, which will open on Laburnum Avenue;

• $541,000 for operating costs related to the renovation of the Gayton Branch Library;

• a 10 percent reduction in funding to nonprofit to organizations that request county aid.

Among other items, the proposed Capital Improvement Program budget of $141.4 million would pay for:

• about $100 million in water and sewer projects;

• the renovation and expansion of Fire Station No. 13;

• land and planning costs associated with the replacement of Dumbarton Library;

• the renovation of Pinchbeck Elementary School.

The Board of Supervisors is conducting its annual departmental budget review this week and will hold a public hearing April 12 to solicit public comment on the budget.
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