VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The rate at which Virginia Beach will tax real estate will remain unchanged, but residents will still be paying more than the year before.

On Tuesday, City Council approved the city manager’s budget with amendments by a 10-1 vote.

Last week, Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson revealed that the reconciliation budget put together by Mayor Bobby Dyer and herself keeps the real estate tax rate at 99 cents for each $100 of assessed value, a 2.3-cent reduction from the city manager’s budget proposal. Of that, 4.1 cents of the rate will help fund future debt brought on by the flood protection program voters approved of last year.

The budget also extends the application of decreased values to vehicles for personal property tax. In March, City Council granted the Commissioner of the Revenue permission to only bill a person for 75% of a car’s value as the used car prices skyrocket.

However, with assessment increases of roughly 9% year-over-year, taxpayers should expect to pay more. Councilman John Moss is the only member to publicly push lowering the rate even further to offset the increases. He was the lone “no” vote on the budget.

However, Wilson feels the investments the city needs to make are “notable.”

“We had to address the flood projects and make sure we take care of our employees,” Wilson said Monday. “We will still have the lowest real estate tax rate in the region.”

In order to try and retain employees in the era of the “great resignation,” the city is going to spend $32.8 million to implement a hybrid pay-step pay plan for 80% of the city’s 7,000-person workforce.

A step plan is designed to incrementally increase pay through a salary range that is assigned to a person based on their job title and years of service. In Virginia Beach’s case, there is a goal to have 3% separation between each step and at implementation, each employee will receive a roughly 5% increase the reconciliation budget stated.

During a presentation last month in front of City Council, Human Resources Director Regina Hillard said a step plan provides a sense of predictability for workers.

Within the last year, a larger push for increased pay and benefits has come from those working mainly in public works. Dyer said putting those workers on the step-plan was a priority.

“We gave them our word that this would get them started on the right track,” Dyer said.

On Monday, Eric Elerbe, who works in public works but has also been a part of the newly formed UE Local 111 Virginia Beach City Workers Union, said he is optimistic.

“I hope this boosts the morale up and let them know this is just a start. We are going to keep on pushing,” Elerbe said.

The reconciliation budget also called for raising the minimum wage for all city workers to $15 an hour.

Outside of pay increases, other changes addressed in the reconciliation budget include adding “beach ambassadors” to Town Center for $300,000, speeding up the rehabilitation of the Museum of Contemporary Art by several years and providing “the members of City Council with administrative and clerical support staff and executive assistance.”

“Some City Council members have asked for help with tasks such as responding to emails as such,” Wilson said. “With us going to a ward system, I think this will be needed.”

A controversial item no longer being considered is setting aside $45 million for resort site acquisition. Included in that money were funds to buy the Oceanfront’s iconic boardwalk Dairy Queen and 17th Street stage.

“We have had very little discussion about that,” Wilson said.

Instead, $12 million will go toward the Atlantic Park public-private project that continues to be plagued by
“supply chain issues and overall inflation.”

Project costs have ballooned, with the city now appearing to chip in north of $120 million. In this case, $8 million will go toward the construction of the 6,000-seat indoor/outdoor entertainment venue. This is the second time the city has increased the amount of money for that project.

The remaining $4 million will go toward surrounding infrastructure improvements.

The budget fully funds the request made by the Virginia Beach City Schoool Board, which has $46 million in compensation-related increases, including a 5% raise for most employees and reclassifying teacher assistants and security assistants to a higher pay grade, among other changes.

Additionally, the budget addresses public safety, infrastructure and economic initiatives.

ndependent Citizen Review Panel

  • Includes $110,000 to support the Independent Citizen Review Panel, to act as a law-enforcement civilian oversight body, through the use of contractual services

Public Safety

  • Implementation of the Chorus Intelligence Suite digital intelligence and crime analysis solution to improve public safety monitoring, analyzing and documenting capabilities for the Police Department
  • Funding for Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), Mobile CAD, Fire Records Management, Police Records Management, and all system integrations
  • Funding for eTicketing to replace the current manual ticket process
  • $2.8 million for an Emergency Communications & Citizen Services (ECCS) backup operations site at the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) headquarters on Virginia Beach Boulevard to ensure redundancy
  • Funding for the design of the Correction Center Renewal and Replacement
  • Increase of 23 full-time employees within EMS to maintain service delivery and response times

Stormwater & Infrastructure

  • $18.7 million for a Regional Stormwater Management Facility at 17th Street in the Resort Area funded through the Tourism Investment Program (TIP) Fund
  • Continue enhanced maintenance efforts related to Lake Management and Neighborhood Rehabilitation projects through the use of $44.8 million in Federal Funding
  • $6 million for the Centerville Turnpike Phase III project to increase capacity and improve safety for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians through the Centerville Turnpike corridor
  • Secured $16.6 million in State revenue which will be allocated for the following projects: Nimmo Parkway VII-B, Pungo Ferry Landing Park Improvements, and Owl Creek Boat Ramps
  • Nearly $5 million in programmed funding for the replacement of the Rudee Inlet Weir

Economic and Tourism Initiatives

  • A robust financing plan through the TIP Fund to enhance Virginia Beach’s position as a tourist destination that includes capital maintenance repairs along Atlantic Avenue, Sports Center improvements, increased parking capacity. 
  • The extension of the Tourism Investment Program (TIP) Fund dedications to ensure it has adequate capacity to support the tourism and economic development initiatives within the Resort Area
  • To support and encourage expansion of special events within the city, the Special Event Fees will be eliminated. The City will continue to provide required safety standards and support services at no charge.