Henrico budget includes corporate tax cuts, bond projects

MAR. 16 – A fourth consecutive pay raise for eligible county employees, a continuation of tax cuts designed to attract corporations and help small businesses, and funding for nearly 30 percent of the $418.9-million in infrastructure projects county voters approved in a bond referendum last year highlight the proposed Henrico County Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget.

County Manager John Vithoulkas presented the plan to the Board of Supervisors March 14 at a work session. Supervisors will conduct four days of work sessions to thoroughly review it beginning Monday.

The $1.2-billion operating budget calls for a 2.5-percent pay raise for all eligible county and school system employees during the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. It also would continue a 39-year stretch during which real estate tax rates have not increased; the rate would remain unchanged at 87 cents per $100 of assessed value.

To ease the tax burden on businesses, Vithoulkas is proposing increasing the full exemption from business personal property taxation from $100,000 to $200,000 in annual gross receipts. That move would mean about 1,400 more county businesses would no longer have to pay the tax, he said.

And to piggyback on several corporate tax cuts implemented last year, he is proposing dropping the personal property tax on data centers from $3.50 to $0.40 per $100 of assessed value. The move is aimed to help the county attract large companies. Last year, Henrico slashed its machinery and tools tax by 70 percent and its water and sewer connection fees by about the same percentage, in addition to cutting the airplane personal property tax by 67 percent.

The budget proposal also includes funding for:

• 10 new police officers, completing a five year plan during which 10 officers have been added each year;

• 27 new firefighters (all but three of whom would be added to staff the new Short Pump Fire Station No. 19);

• four new Sheriff's deputies (one for each jail booking platoon to monitor x-ray scanners);

• the 1.1-mile extension of the Azalea Connector GRTC bus line in northern Henrico, along with a new Bus Rapid Transit line between Willow Lawn and Rocketts Landing;

• the county's new Heroin Task Force, a multi-departmental group that is meeting weekly to ensure the county's efforts to combat and respond to the epidemic are streamlined and effective;

• construction of a new Mental Health East Center on Laburnum Avenue, near the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center.

The capital budget would include $114.6 million of the $419.8 million of bond projects county voters approved in November. All bond projects are expected to be funded within the next five budgets, but Vithoulkas intentionally included a high percentage of projects – primarily school renovation and expansion efforts – in the first budget. That's because the prep work required for several of them already had been funded and completed, and the projects themselves were deemed urgent needs.

The projects include renovations to Tuckahoe Middle School and Chamberlayne, Crestview, Pemberton, Seven Pines and Skipwith elementary schools, as well as a six-classroom addition to Glen Allen Elementary School and the installation of turf fields at all of the county's high schools. The latter project is likely to be completed during a period of three years.
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June 2017
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The 2017 Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Richmond Raceway Complex. All guests will receive a souvenir glass for all-you-care-to-taste beer and bourbon. There are 40 bourbons and 60 beers to enjoy. There will also be a great barbecue selection, the Shrine of Swine, seminars in the Tasting Theater, live music, exhibits and more. Tickets are $49 to $55 for the VIP session (begins at noon) and $39 to $45 for the regular session. For details, visit http://www.beerandbourbon.com/virginia/show-info. Full text

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