VB’s acting city manager puts forward budget with no real estate tax increase — but coronavirus complicates things

Virginia Beach

Tom Leahy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach’s 2021 proposed budget includes no real estate tax increase, allocates money to help recover from the May 31, 2019 mass shooting and gives a raise for employees.

However, the latter may fall victim to the coronavirus.

Tuesday afternoon, Acting City Manager Tom Leahy delivered the $2.1-billion budget via live stream to an empty conference room, in order to allow for social distancing for the City Council.

“[The pandemic] is potentially a much greater emergency fiscally… than we have ever faced in the past,” Leahy said. “This could increase our expenditures for many, many months and decrease our revenues for many, many months.”

With that said, Leahy directed three changes immediately. There would be a hiring freeze for city employees until further notice, a purchasing freeze on non-essential items and a review of capital improvement projects such as roadway fixes to see where money can be saved.

Looking forward to the budget that would take effect on July 1, Leahy also says changes will likely have to be made to what they have prepared thus far.

“This budget was just going to the printers when the reality of what we are facing hit us like a tone of bricks,” Leahy said.

Under the plan, the stormwater rate would still rise by 3.5 cents per day. Council already approved for this to happen annually through until 2025 to help fund necessary flood prevention projects.

There is $5.5 million included in the budget to help implement recommendations from the Hillard Heintze report on the May 31st mass shooting. An additional $83 million will fund renovation work on Buildings 1, 2 and 11.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools will see a nearly $460 million contribution, with the superintendent planning for a 3.5-percent pay raise.

Leahy was also hoping city employees would get a 2.5-percent pay raise, but now that may not happen.

“We know we have to pump the brakes now,” said David Bradley, acting deputy city manager.

Bradley recommends deferring the pay raises once revenues are better assessed. He said that would save $10 million. Cuts in beach replenishment funding and dredging area also proposed.

A public hearing on the budget has been planned for April 22nd at the convention center — with hopes it is large enough to allow for social distancing.

Council votes on the budget in early May.

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