Hen­rico to scratch plan for em­ployee pay raises

Eco­nomic hit from virus cited; re­dis­trict­ing for schools may hit snag

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY C. SUAREZ RO­JAS Richmond Times-Dis­patch

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.

JOE MA­HONEY/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

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.

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