NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Several fees property owners pay could increase along with their real estate tax payment if Norfolk City Council approves the city manager’s recommended 2024 fiscal year budget.
Tuesday, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer presented his $1.9 billion proposed fiscal year 2024 budget to City Council, saying it was formed with the goal of “investing in team Norfolk” and providing the services Filer says residents want.
The plan calls for a 5% raise for employees and 2.5% raise for all sworn public safety employees, which will soon include 911 employees.
It also includes $6.4 million for 34 new positions that will help address priorities residents identified in a recent survey.
“As we solidify our emergence from the pandemic, we continue to focus on strategically funding the right services for today and developing a sound and sustainable plan for the future,” Filer said in his letter to City Council.
Norfolk residents could be paying more in fees and taxes beginning July 1 as the real estate tax assessments have increased by 6.8% and the real estate tax rate is recommended to stay unchanged at $1.25 per $100 of assessed value.
Filer’s budget also calls for increases in the solid waste fee by $1.50, bringing the new fee to $28.51 per billing cycle and the city’s stormwater fee would increase by 4% to $13.57. There are also increases in parking fees and cemetery fees proposed.
He said as with everything, inflation has had an impact creating nearly $5 million in higher costs to maintain current service levels.
Staffing also remains an issue. The Norfolk Police Department remains short nearly 200 of its budgeted positions as the city deals with an uptick in homicides in the last few years.
In his upcoming budget, Filer is recommending an overall $2.7 million increase in police funding by cutting the number of budgeted positions on the force by more than 100.
He said it’s not expected that the city will ever be able to have a 770-person strong force.
“So what I’m trying to do with this budget this year is acknowledge that and allow council the opportunity now to go ahead and pre-budget those vacancy savings, knowing we are going to have some excess funds from that personnel number. So the difference between 770 and 652 we can reallocate to technology, these new safety aid positions. As well as enhancing our current salaries for officers.”
Rebuilding the police department has been a priority for Filer in the last year.
Filer recommends a $10.5 million increase in local contribution to Norfolk Public Schools over the previous fiscal year although there will be some school building renovations put off one year.
The majority of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan budget will be dedicated to helping fund the Downtown Norfolk floodwall project. The city will need to provide an annual $93 million
match over the next ten years to a larger $2.6 billion project to protect the city from flooding long term.
However, also included in the budget is $12 million for upgrades to the Half Moone Cruise terminal.
Late last year, Norfolk announced a deal with Carnival Cruise Lines to make the city a home port by 2025. The 3,000-passenger Carnival Sunshine will offer six-day sailings to the Bahamas and eight-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries. This marks the first time that Virginia will have year-round cruise service.
“As a result of that, however, we do need to make some enhancements to our cruise terminal,” Filer said. “It was not built with the idea that we would ever home port a ship … this is a massive investment in the city by Carnival.”
He said the consultant will help the city find out exactly what improvements need to be made.
It was only in 2020 that Norfolk invested several million dollars in a new gangway. Filer said that installation helped them lure the long-term deal.
He estimates the city will take in more than $2.1 million in the next fiscal year in terminal fees.
A public hearing for the budget plan is scheduled for April 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Granby High School. City Council is scheduled to formally vote to adopt the budget on May 23.
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