Proposed budget boosts schools, police, flood mitigation, economic development

April 10, 2019 – City Manager Mary Bunting unveiled highlights of a proposed budget for next year that would fully fund the city schools’ budget, add police personnel, boost flood mitigation projects, increase workforce development, provide for 3 percent raises for city and school staff, and facilitate economic development projects.

The recommended budget for fiscal 2020 totals $487,881,672, a 3.55% increase from the FY 2019 budget. The schools’ portion is $211,141,195, or 43.28%, of the total. The remaining $276,740,477 would fund city operations, as well as all city and school capital expenditures, transfer payments for which the city acts as a collection agent and contributions to outside agencies.

This is Bunting’s 10th budget since becoming city manager, and she noted that she was pleased to submit a proposal that “offers investments in some of our top priorities and maintains service levels to the citizens without any increases in the general tax rate.”

Economic growth in a variety of areas boosted revenue projections. Bunting attributed that growth to “an improved economy and the realization of several economic base enhancement projects undertaken several years ago.”

Bunting did propose some fee increases, for both solid waste and stormwater, as well as an increase of $1 per night for hotel guests.

School Board Chairwoman Ann Cherry and Superintendent Jeffery Smith presented the school budget first, with Cherry highlighting the “ongoing, continuous, solid, productive working relationship” that the two entities share. The overall schools budget grew by $8.98 million, or 4.4 percent, with increases in state funding as well.

Bunting noted that “our schools are one of this city’s top priorities” and highlighted the school accreditation rate, graduation rate, dual degree enrollment and industry certifications, as well as the career academy initiative. Local funding for the schools in Bunting’s budget proposal increased by $1.7 million to $75.57 million, which she noted is more than twice the amount required by the state.

Bunting noted that the city has been consistently investing in additional police personnel, equipment and technology. Those efforts are making a difference, she said, citing totals that showed violent crimes are down 21% compared with 2016, and are at their second-lowest level since at least 2003. Property crimes have fallen 17% over two years and are at their lowest level since at least 2003.

Still, she vowed, “we will not be happy until we see crime levels drop even further.” The proposed budget would add five positions to the Police Division. But boosting law enforcement is not sufficient in itself, she said, announcing a plan to partner with Johns Hopkins University to examine the root causes of violence in our community.

Bunting gave highlights of the proposed budget, which will be released on Monday, April 15, with copies available on the city’s website (www.hampton.gov/budget) and printed copies in the libraries. City Council will hold public hearings April 24 and May 1 with a vote scheduled for May 8. The fiscal 2020 budget year begins July 1, 2019.

By City Council priority, some of the other items included are:

Family Resilience and Economic Empowerment: Additional resources for workforce development, for the general population as well as those on public assistance.

Economic Growth: Many of these efforts are in the capital portion of the FY20 budget, and others are  in the longer-term capital plan. Projects include boosting youth sports tourism and downtown development and stabilizing and improving housing and home values.

Living with Water: Bunting proposes jump-starting projects to reduce the impact of flooding, as well as reducing pollution, by obtaining about $12 million in bonds for new projects proposed in the Resilient Hampton initiative. The bonds would be paid with the $1 monthly increase in the stormwater fee.

Placemaking: The five-year capital plan includes $6 million for park improvements, including the Buckroe Beach boardwalk, in addition to the routine $13.2 million for general park maintenance and improvements.

Good Government: In addition to employee raises, the budget would boost the retirement for sworn police and fire employees, adjust pay scales for equipment operators, and allow hiring bonuses for sworn police and fire recruits.

The proposed fee increase for solid waste, $1.15 per week, would cover the increased costs of recycling as well as a reduction in the price the city can get for selling the energy from the city’s trash-to-steam plant.