Record sales tax collections, conservative budgeting and federal COVID-19 relief funding were key factors that helped Chesterfield County end fiscal year 2021 with a historic $106 million operating surplus.
At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Board of Supervisors will solicit feedback from county residents at a public hearing before voting on a plan to invest those dollars through amendments to the fiscal year 2022 budget.
About half of the money -- $52 million – is already earmarked for specific expenditures approved by the board earlier this year:
- $27 million to fully fund a supplemental retirement plan (SRP) for Chesterfield County Public Schools employees
- $25 million for three strategic land acquisitions (Spring Rock Green shopping center, the former Southside Speedway property and the Adaline Acres wedding venue on the banks of the James River in Chester)
Paying off the unfunded liability in the school system’s SRP will free up about $12 million annually in its operating budget. Part of that money will be used to finance $130 million in construction bonds for two new middle schools – one in the western Route 360 corridor to relieve overcrowding at Tomahawk Creek Middle, as well as a significantly larger, modern replacement for Falling Creek Middle.
That will enable CCPS to open the much-needed schools by fall 2024 – at least a year earlier than it could have by waiting to use proceeds from a planned November 2022 countywide bond referendum.
In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors last month (available in its entirety at the top of this page), Deputy County Administrator for Finance and Administration Matt Harris introduced a plan to allocate another $34.7 million from the surplus toward the following expenditures:
That would leave about $19.8 million, which county staff has proposed to invest in these categories:
As confirmed by Chesterfield’s external auditor last month, CCPS ended fiscal year 2021 with a $42 million operating surplus. That money was returned to the county, in compliance with state law, pending the Board of Supervisors’ Dec. 15 vote to re-appropriate it for the school system’s future use.
The School Board formally requested such action last month, and has proposed to allocate its surplus dollars to a number of priorities:
During the Dec. 15 meeting, the Board of Supervisors also will be asked to advertise Chesterfield’s maximum real estate tax rate for calendar year 2022 at 93 cents per $100 of assessed value.
That would ensure property owners across the county receive at least a 2-cent reduction from the current rate of 95 cents. (While the board could opt to further reduce the rate when it approves the fiscal year 2023 operating budget next April, it would be legally prohibited from exceeding the 93-cent ceiling).
Amid surging demand for residential real estate in Chesterfield and many other parts of the U.S., county leaders are mindful of the impact of rising assessments on homeowners’ tax bills.
Annual revaluations of existing real estate won’t be finalized by the Department of Real Estate Assessments until Jan. 1. But based on the increase in the median sale price of homes over the past 12 months, initial projections suggest 2022 assessments could go up by an average of 7% to 10% countywide.
For comparison, average assessments increased by 3.1% to 4.4% annually in Chesterfield from 2017 to 2021.