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Danville City Manager Ken Larking tonight submitted a proposed budget that includes additional crime reduction initiatives, invests more money in public schools and continues projects designed to grow Danville.
Reducing crime, improving public schools and growing Danville are the three focus areas that City Council identified during a retreat in October that it wanted to work with the city manager and staff to address.
“In recent years, City Council has authorized expenditures above and beyond the status quo in areas like River District revitalization, blight eradication and neighborhood stabilization,” Larking said. “Based on Council’s input, this year’s recommendation also includes funding related to the City Council focus areas.”
Larking is proposing an additional $720,000 to upgrade police equipment, purchase and equip additional police vehicles, hire civilian personnel to assume tasks currently handled by police officers, and fund a targeted recruitment and retention effort for new police officers.
For schools, Larking is proposing additional funding of $1.6 million for operations, bringing the total to nearly $20.6 million or 8.42 percent over the current level.
To grow Danville, Larking recommends funding further study of riverfront development, creation of gateway corridor plans and a review of zoning and development codes to ensure the permitting process is as business friendly as possible.
Larking said this budget is a blueprint for increasing Danville’s competitiveness.
“Danville is in a global competition for residents, businesses and visitors,” Larking said. “We’ve made strategic investments in key areas that make our City more competitive and have seen success in our River District, commercial corridors and industrial development. This budget proposes to make additional strategic investments in our community to make it a more desirable place for middle class people to choose to call home.”
In addition to costs associated with the City Council focus areas, the proposed budget sets aside funds for an average 2 percent pay-for-performance raise for employees and major increases in the cost of employee health insurance, retirement contributions due to new formulas associated with increased life expectancy and medical supplies for inmates at the City Jail.
Paying for these costs as proposed will require a 15-cent increase in the real estate tax rate from 73 cents per $100 valuation to 88 cents and a one percentage-point increase in the meals tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.
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 88-cent rate, a homeowner with a house valued at $75,000 would pay an additional $112.50 per year or $9.38 per month under the new 88-cent rate.
“For this increased investment, Danville Public Schools will have more resources available to better educate children living in that home or homes nearby, which will lead to better quality graduates who will have more opportunity to contribute to the success of society,” Larking said. “An investment in education would also lead to more middle class families choosing to live in Danville so that they can send their children to Danville Public Schools.
“Demand for housing inside the City would grow and that $75,000 home will increase in value, which would encourage further investment in our City. The increased revenue will also provide additional funds to the Police Department, which will enable officers to more effectively patrol our neighborhoods and businesses. This will help our residents feel safer and improve the perception that outsiders have about Danville.”
A one percentage-point increase in the meals tax would increase a $25 restaurant bill by 25 cents.
Utility rates will remain unchanged, with the exception of the rate for streetlights, most of which is paid for with funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The proposed budget, at $288.5 million, is a working draft for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
City Council began reviewing the proposed budget at its work session tonight. It will continue its review in a special work session on March 29 and a regular work session on April 4. Public hearings will be scheduled later in the budget process. Final adoption must take place no later than June 30. The final budget will serve as a framework for city operations from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.