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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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

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.
> Read more.

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.
> Read more.

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The Shady Grove Coffeehouse at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 11105 Cauthorne Rd. in Glen Allen, will conclude its 16th season with Robin and Linda Williams at 8 p.m. For more than four decades, the Williams’ have made it their mission to perform the music they love – a blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism. Tickets are $20 to $25; teens are admitted at half price and children age 12 and under are free. Net proceeds benefit UUCC. For details, call 323-4288 or visit http://www.shadygrovecoffeehouse.com. Full text

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