Portsmouth’s proposed 2021 budget gives schools more funding, raises meals tax and proposes boat ramp fee


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — For the first time in several years, the city manager’s proposed budget allocates an increase in funding for schools, more than the amount the superintendent asked for.

City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton revealed her Fiscal Year 2021 budget to empty council chambers Monday afternoon. City offices have been closed due to coronavirus concerns.

“Education is the best investment we can make,” Pettis Patton said. “Paying off countless dividends for the children, community and the city.”

Schools will receive $56.7 million out of the city’s nearly-$254 million general fund budget, according to Patton’s plan. That is roughly $1.4 million more than the school system received in the previous year.

“Wow,” said Claude Parent, a pleasantly surprised chair of Portsmouth’s School Board, when informed Monday evening by a 10 On Your Side reporter.

Parent was not in favor of the funding formula put into place last month by the City Council. While the formula was meant to put a stop to the contentious feuds that occurred each year between the city and school system, in a letter sent to the city council last month, Parent said he believed it still would result in underfunding.

However, Patton’s budget provides for the additional $1.1 million increase Superintendent of Schools Dr. Elie Bracy previously asked for, plus an additional $200,000 on top.

“That is great news for the kids,” Parent said.

But it’s also great news for the teachers and staff. Bracy has proposed a 2-percent raise for them.

The overall city budget is 2.05 percent more than the previous year and Patton is also recommending council approve a 3-percent increase for city workers.

While a $2.5 million increase in real estate tax projections will help make it happen, so will raising several taxes and fees.

While real estate taxes would not change, there would be a 1-percent increase in the meals tax that is paid by anyone dining in the city. The increase would bring it to 7.5 percent. Couple that with state sales tax, and someone going out to eat in the city will see 13.5 percent in taxes on their bill.

Other fees Patton proposes raising are the sewer and water fees by 9 percent, stormwater by 75 cents and making all parking meters $1.25 per hour during the day and a $2 flat fee on nights and weekends.

A new $5 fee to use the Portsmouth City Park boat launch is also being floated “to assist with addressing some maintenance costs.”

Of course, all could be subject to change with the coronavirus destined to affect any taxes associated with entertainment.

10 On Your Side reached out to Mayor John Rowe to ask how public hearings would be carried out during the pandemic. He did not return requests for comment by WAVY’s deadline.

City Council is scheduled to approve its final budget on May 12.

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