Hanover County Administrator John A. Budesky has proposed a $615 million County Budget for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1. The all-funds budget represents an increase of about 9% in local funds from the current year and is intended to address a number of issues the County faces, including the need for more competitive salaries for employees and the need to replace three schools that are 80 years old.
No property tax rate increase is proposed, with the real estate rate remaining at 81 cents, the lowest among the four largest localities in the Richmond Region. Budesky projected that the current spike in revenues would halved next year, providing the County with a rare one-year opportunity to meet the public’s needs.
“Prior to the recession, the County saw increases in assessments and new growth of 10% per year on average,” Budesky told the Board of Supervisors. “We are just now – 14 years later – seeing growth like that again. The major difference is that we expect this to be an anomaly, not a trend. One of the drivers in assessment growth is the number of home sales and this year has been like no other in that regard.”
The turnover rate for County staff is nearly twice that of previous years, trending towards 18% this year. Budesky said Hanover needs to be competitive in wages to keep its best employees and recruit the best new talent to the County. He is requesting the Board approve a 5% merit pay increase with longevity increases and market-based salary adjustments in FY23 as well as a minimum wage of $15 an hour. This matches the School Board’s request for a 5% raise for their employees. “I have not seen the job market change as much as it has in the 24 months,” Budesky told the Board.
Proposed new positions include seven firefighter-medics for the Henry Fire Station and four deputies for the Sheriff’s Office. Of the 27.5 new positions in the budget, 16.7 are in Public Safety.
Infrastructure is another major need identified in Budesky’s proposed budget. Hanover’s outdated facilities include three elementary schools that are over 80 years old and fire stations that were not built for 24/7 use. These needs have been deferred for years as Hanover adopted a more conservative approach.
“We have 13 schools that are over 50 years old,” Budesky said, “and we have fewer students than we had four years ago.”
Under Budesky’s plan, the County will advance the construction of three new elementary schools in the next five years and undertake a major renovation of Beaverdam Elementary. In addition to the consolidation of Henry Clay and John M. Gandy elementary schools, Battlefield Elementary School and Washington-Henry Elementary School would be replaced.
The five-year investment of $122 million in the schools would be the largest in Hanover’s recent history. Budesky said the proposed revenue growth allows the capacity to fund the construction and renovation costs of these four schools, as well as a $16.5 million investment in school technology.
The projected growth in revenue also enables the County to fully fund a new fire station in the Laurel Meadow area with cash and not issuing debt. This new fire station will provide a modern facility that will support 24/7 staffing and provide more reliable coverage in that area of the County. A specific location for this fire station has not been identified.
Road projects identified for construction in the Capital Improvements Plan include the widening of Atlee Station Road from Warren Avenue to Kings Charter Drive; the widening of Pole Green Road from Bell Creek Road to Rural Point Road; and widening U.S. 360 between Wynbrook Lane through the intersection with Lee-Davis Road to Sujen Court. Lee-Davis Road would also be widened around that intersection. Several intersections have been identified as potential roundabouts as a safety measure. Much of this is made possible by funding through the new Central Virginia Transportation Authority.
Budesky is also proposing an enhancement to the Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled to make the benefit available to more people and increase the level of tax relief. The County Administrator said that 56% of Hanover residents already quality for some type of tax assistance program , whether it be Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled, the Land Use tax deferral program or tax exemptions for qualifying government, religious and charitable organizations.
Education and public safety operating budgets make up 51% of Budesky’s proposed budget. The operating budget contribution to Hanover County Public Schools will increase by 6.4%.
A public hearing on Budesky’s proposed budget and all tax rates will be held in the Board of Supervisors meeting room on April 6 at 6 p.m. Budesky said that staff and Board members alike seek out and value input from the community as an ongoing process.
The Board will have subsequent meetings on aspects of the budget on February 23 at 2 p.m., when the Board will hear from HCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill on the School Board’s adopted budget. The Board will also hear presentations on revenues, the five-year plan and capital improvements from Shelly Wright, Budget Division Director; compensation and benefits from Janet Lawson, Human Resources Director; and Public Utilities from Steve Herzog, Director.
An additional budget presentation will be made to the Board at its March 23 meeting.
The budget schedule calls for adoption on April 13.