City Council held public hearings Tuesday evening on the proposed school budget for the next fiscal year and higher tax rates advertised for real estate, personal property, meals, lodging and aircraft.
The proposed school budget drew the most comments. Nine citizens, including school teachers, asked City Council to consider more local funding than proposed for Danville Public Schools. As proposed, the school system would receive an increase of $1.4 million for operations for the next school year, bringing the total to nearly $20.4 million or 8.42 percent over the current level. The School Board had requested an increase of $2.1 million.
No vote was taken following the public hearing last night because the matter was scheduled for a first reading only. A first reading is an introductory step required by City code before certain matters can be voted upon. City Council will vote on the school budget at its next meeting on May 16.
The public hearings on the tax rates garnered fewer comments, with aircraft taxes drawing opposition. The City has advertised a 60-cent increase in the airplane property tax, from 30 cents to 90 cents per $100 in value.
The City also has advertised increases as follows:
- 7 cents in the real estate tax rate, from 73 cents to 80 cents per $100 in value
- 50 cents in the personal property tax rate, from $3 to $3.50 per $100 in value
- a one percentage-point increase in the meals tax, from 6 percent to 7 percent
- a one percentage-point increase in the hotel/motel lodging tax from 6 percent to 7 percent
The City is required to advertise maximum tax rate increases weeks ahead of making a final decision on the budget for the next fiscal year. City Council has the option of choosing a lower rate, but cannot exceed these advertised rates.
An increase in the real estate tax rate would be the first since fiscal year 2003. The current tax rate of 73 cents is second only to Williamsburg for cities and 33 cents lower than the state average. Under the new 80-cent rate, a homeowner with a house valued at $75,000 would pay an additional $52.50 per year or $4.38 per month
The revenue generated by these increases would pay for the increase in school funding and initiatives to reduce violent crime and to grow Danville. The increase in revenue also would maintain municipal services at current levels and set aside funds for employee raises and increases in employee health insurance, employee retirement contributions and medical supplies for inmates at the City Jail.
City Council must adopt a budget no later than June 30. The final budget will serve as a framework for city operations from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.
In other matters Tuesday night, City Council voted to:
- Authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement to purchase property at 15 Oak Drive in the Pine Tag neighborhood. The City is seeking to purchase the property in order to provide an emergency access.
- Adopt an ordinance to impose civil penalties for excessive growth of weeds or grass.
- Adopt an ordinance modifying fees and charges for outdoor lights and street lights beginning July 1.
- Amend the budget to provide to provide for receipt and appropriation of a grant in the amount of $55,220 from the Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services board for use by the Parks and Recreation Department to conduct a recreation enrichment program and expanded summer program.
- Grant a special use permit to waive setback requirements so that Commonwealth Home Health Care can install an unenclosed metal structure in the parking area fronting Churchview Drive.
- Rezone property at 1102 Franklin Turnpike to allow it to be used for auto sales.
- Grant special use permits to allow Right Touch Christian Church to operate a community garden on a City-owned vacant lots at 24 Worsham St. and 25 Worsham St.
- Rezone property at 717 Jefferson St. and grant a special use permit to allow the property to be used as a homeless shelter to be operated by Present Help Ministries.
- Rezone property on Lee Street and grant a special use permit to allow it to be used as a private parking lot for a homeless shelter to be operated by Present Help Ministries at 717 Jefferson St.
In addition to these votes, City Council held a first reading on a budget amendment for transfer of $186,199 in support of capital projects and blight removal projects. The earliest vote that can take place on this matter will be the May 16 Council meeting.
Also in the business session, Mayor John Gilstrap presented two proclamations. The first proclamation declared the month of May as “Make Danville Shine Month.” The second proclamation declared next week as “National Travel and Tourism Week.”
Council's meeting included a business session followed by a work session. In work sessions, Council reviews non-routine matters that will be voted upon in future business meetings.
During the work session, City Council scheduled votes on the following items for its next business session, which will be held on May 16.
- An ordinance to reflect changes in the City’s personnel system.
- A resolution to re-join Blue Ridge Power Agency.
- A resolution to sell renewable energy credits.
- A resolution to reduce the electric power cost adjustment.
- A resolution to enter into a lease agreement for the Registrar’s Office.
- An ordinance to vacate property near College Avenue.
River City TV airs live all Council business sessions. The first rebroadcast will be at 8 p.m. Thursday. Watch it on cable (Comcast channel 10 and Gamewood channel 122). The taped broadcast is available now on River City TV’s Facebook page. the City’s YouTube channel -- DanvilleVAGov.
River City TV does not air work sessions, but they are open to the public.