NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — New Norfolk police officers would start out making more than any other officers in the Hampton Roads region under the city manager’s proposed budget.
Despite ongoing impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, the Norfolk city manager’s proposed budget for next year does not recommend any increases to taxes or fees in the city.
Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer laid out his $923.5-million general fund budget for fiscal year 2022 during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
The budget, which begins July 1, is a 4.5% increase over last year’s budget.
During the meeting, Filer said “trying to form a budget the last 12 months can best be described as utter chaos.”
“Development of this budget began last summer during a period of unprecedented public health and economic uncertainty. City Council’s decision to reduce last year’s budget by $40 million and the resulting reductions to services was extremely difficult but it has set the stage for our recovery this year,” Filer wrote in a letter about the budget to City Council March 26.
Norfolk had to furlough 550 part-time workers in late March 2020, then in July furloughed 78 full-time employees. In December, they laid off 57 of those full-time employees in order to balance the budget last year.
Filer said the current fiscal year’s revenue is now outperforming the budget but is still well below the city’s pre-pandemic forecast. The upcoming fiscal year forecast continues to get better as the public health outlook also improves.
Although revenue is still below the pre-pandemic forecast, real estate taxes will stay the same at $1.25 per $100 of assessed property value. Fees also will remain stable.
The fiscal year 2022 budget proposes $25.7 million in new investment for City Council priorities, including:
- Supporting Norfolk Public Schools
- Attracting and retaining the best talent
- Recreation and library operations
- Support for youth
- Citywide beautification
- Affordable housing and community development
- Streamlining development services.
Filer’s budget also calls for a 3% raise for all employees effective July 1.
He also is recommending a 3% increase to the minimum and maximum of each pay range to raise starting pay to aid recruiting efforts.
Critical jobs with recruiting and retention issues such as 911 telecommunicators, police officers and sheriff’s deputies could receive even larger pay raises.
Filer proposes an 8% increase to Norfolk police pay in the budget. That would bring the starting pay for an officer to $50,800 per year, which would be the highest in the region. Currently, it’s about $43,500 per year.
Telecommunicators could see an average 6.7% pay increase, and deputies could see 5% raises on average.
City healthcare premiums are also increasing 6.6% in December 2022, which could be covered by this proposed budget.
“This results in employees seeing the entire three percent salary increase make its way into their paychecks,” Filer wrote in the letter to City Council.
The local contribution to Norfolk Public Schools is projected to increase by more than $8.6 million this upcoming budget year. Filer recommends giving $129.6 million to schools, which would allow the division to fully recover from budget losses due to COVID-19.
This year, Norfolk Public Schools hopes to give:
- An increase in the starting pay for teachers from $44,220 to $47,000
- A step increase in the base salaries for current teachers by an average of 5.1%
- A step increase for classified employees, projected at an average of 5%
- A step increase for administrators, projected to raise base pay by an average of 3%
Filer also recommends opening more Norfolk Public Library locations as funding becomes available. Currently, six libraries and eight recreation centers are open.
Funds are not available to open all facilities for their regular hours, but this budget hopes to give funds to open the new Richard Tucker Library when construction is complete this summer, expand Aquatics and Athletics operations, increase hours at the Slover Library, and open additional recreation and library facilities.
Many community members have complained about possible long-term negative effects of having the rec centers closed.
Filer said there is no reopening strategy, but city leaders will work with City Council to develop one.
Moving forward, the budget will need to go through the public hearing process.
If you want to speak about budget issues, the city will host a Virtual Public Budget Hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 8. Instructions on how to join and how to comment will be posted on the City Council web page. This is the only public hearing on the budget.
Another virtual public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. April 27 deals only with the impact to the effective tax rate due to an increase in real estate assessed values, the city said.
Comments or concerns can be sent directly to residents’ representative City Council member. Their contact information can be found here or by calling 757-664-4268.