Henrico prepares for record $1.6B of spending in fiscal 2024
The county’s board of supervisors approved a historic budget of investments in employees and taxpayers.
Henrico County is set to spend a record $1.6 billion in county expenditures during the incoming fiscal year beginning July 1, after the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the 2024 budget during its last meeting in April.
County Manager John Vithoulkas commended the county’s organizational staff for their joint effort toward approving what he considers a “historic” investment in county services.
“It’s certainly historic,” Vithoulkas said. “It starts with the investments that are being made in our people, our employees and our environment. I think you’re going to see some incredible results in our economic development from what we’ve done.”
Though the county’s budget is only an 8.8% increase from last year’s, it's more than the county has balanced in Vithoulkas’ 26 years working for Henrico, including his near 10-year tenure as county manager.
Fiscal 2024 is also the first year Henrico anticipates receiving a portion of its $500 million bond to spend on county education, public safety, recreation and drainage projects, which was approved by county residents in November 2022.
“I can tell you that in all my years in the county, this budget is probably the one that I’m absolutely the most proud of because it does so much,” Vithoulkas said.
Benefits for employees, core residential services
Starting in July, all of Henrico’s employees will receive a 8.2% salary increase — the largest across-the-board salary increase in 33 years, according to the county manager.
“We expect a lot of our employees,” said Vithoulkas. “We’ve established a culture here of high performance, and our intent is to pay them more.”
As the Richmond region competes to retain its workforce, Vithoulkas said he’s confident Henrico can keep talent through incentives like the county's Home Purchase Assistance Program or HPAP, which assists county employees by providing forgivable loans toward their first home purchase.
Henrico’s investment in core services like education and public safety also saw marginal growth. Education alone makes up over 50% of the county’s expenditures with $818 million earmarked for the Henrico Public School System, while public safety makes up around 22% or around $228 million.
Around $114 million of the county's capital improvement budget will come from the 2022 bond referendum. That money will go to the replacement of Jackson-Davis Elementary and Longan Elementary, as well as planning for the replacement of Quioccasin Middle School.
The bond will also contribute to the replacement of Firehouse 6, development of the Three Chopt Area Park and the county drainage program. Another $100 million will go to water and sewer infrastructure improvements, including sewer improvements in the Westwood area and planning for improvements in Innsbrook.
Henrico also intends to fund construction of the school division’s Environmental Living Center, replace one of its firehouses and fund construction of a new police station to replace a leased facility.
Tax relief and financial obligations
Henrico primarily owes its growth to rising housing assessments and an estimated $641 million in general property tax revenue, which makes up just over 70% of the local revenue.
This year, housing assessments saw a total increase of $6.6 billion — the largest increase ever recorded in the county. Although it will maintain a property tax rate of 85 cents per $100 of assessed value, residents like Dave Cummings voiced concerns to the Board of Supervisors about the housing climate.
“When I received my real estate tax bill a month or so ago, I was surprised to see the assessment went up 20%. It’s risen 25% in the last two years,” said Cummings, “My concern is that we might see some people taxed out of their homes.”
Cummings, who is president of the Cedars Homeowners Association — a 96-home community in the northwest region of Henrico — had particular concerns about older adults and fixed-income households.
However, Henrico finance director Sheila Minor said the county’s planning to provide a wide range of tax relief benefits for entire communities.
“For everyone in Henrico County, regardless of age, the board has provided tax relief in the form of a rebate or a credit, as we like to call it,” Minor told VPM News. “This was something relatively new that we were allowed to do. We were among the first localities to implement it.”
Minor said the county plans to send over 100,000 checks to taxpayers and return approximately $11.2 million of previously collected, surplus real estate tax revenue as tax relief.
Supervisors also approved a 10-cent reduction toward personal property tax on qualified vehicles. Henrico will continue its Real Estate Advantage Program (REAP) incentive for older and disabled residents.