Henrico to scratch plan for employee pay raises
Economic hit from virus cited; redistricting for schools may hit snag
Henrico County officials bracing for a prolonged economic downturn are planning to remove a proposed 3% raise for county employees in a revised budget proposal for next year.
Raises for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees will not be included in the new financial plan that will be presented next month, Deputy Finance Director Meghan Coates said on Thursday.
“No new operating initiatives, including the proposed merit increases, will be included in the revised FY21 proposal,” she said in an email Thursday.
Much like the state with its budget, Henrico is re-evaluating the revenue forecasts and spending plans in its $1.4 billion budget proposal because of the global economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne last week said the state is likely to lose $1 billion in revenue in each year of the pending twoyear budget.
Anticipating a significant decline in local tax revenue in the foreseeable future, Henrico is implementing a hiring freeze and suspending all discretionary agency spending.
The county is planning to amend its budget quarterly after the new fiscal year begins on July 1, Coates said in a news release Thursday.
Coates said the amendments could include the raises and capital projects that were in the original budget proposal if there’s an economic rebound when the crisis ends.
She said the raises and other compensation initiatives, such as a $3.1 million pool for a professional development program for teachers and $255,000 in targeted raises for veteran teachers, will be prioritized.
The freeze on unfunded capital projects also threatens to disrupt the school system’s ongoing redistricting plans.
The tentative redistricting plan envisions a new elementary school in the Fairfield District and $11.5 million for an eight-classroom expansion at Hungary Creek Middle.
The health crisis has already interrupted the planning process, with two upcoming redistricting committee meetings postponed. The School Board is scheduled to vote on a final redistricting plan for the start of the 2021-2022 school year in May.
With only a few weeks left on the schedule and uncertainty over how long state-imposed restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people will remain, the 67-member redistricting committee may soon be dissolved.
At Thursday’s School Board meeting, a majority on the board said they want the school planning staff to take the two latest proposals from the volunteer committee to craft a final recommendation.
“I think dragging this out is not in the best interest of our community,” said board member Micky Ogburn. “It’s been a long haul so far. I think it’s time for the committee to hand it off.”
Since the beginning of the planning process in September, the committee and Ohio-based consultant Cropper GIS have developed more than two dozen maps with new school-zone boundaries.
The two latest proposals would move nearly 4,500 students.
Families from various
neighborhoods, mostly from western Henrico, have expressed frustration over new school feeder patterns and moves away from neighborhood schools.
In an interview before the meeting, Ogburn said she would want the school system to publicize whatever changes are made so that the public can give input before a final vote.
Chairman Roscoe Cooper was the only one to support delaying the process. “People have so much on their minds. I’m not comfortable with this,” he said. “The community will be limited in its ability to stay involved.”
Coates said the revised budget proposal will be presented to the Board of Supervisors next month. The final vote on its adoption is slated for April 28.
Sara Black, a teacher at Glen Lea Elementary School in Henrico County, hugged a student goodbye on March 13. Schools have closed because of the pandemic.