Local government is a people-intensive operation. From teachers in Chesterfield’s classrooms, to police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies keeping our community safe, to utility workers providing access to clean drinking water, thousands of public employees wake up every morning with a mission of providing exceptional service to the county’s 370,000 residents.
In a historically tight labor market, the competition for top talent is as fierce as it has ever been. As a result, the cost of recruiting and retaining a high-quality workforce has increased significantly in recent years.
The fiscal year 2024 budget adopted by the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors this evening, which totals $1.94 billion, continues a multiyear process to alleviate acute pay compression and maintain employees’ salaries in a market competitive position.
“We have the same pressures on us from a staffing perspective as many of the businesses in our community,” said Kevin Carroll, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “The marketplace, with unemployment being so low, trying to hire people to fill positions we have in public safety, teachers and school bus drivers … we face the same challenges. We’re competing in many areas with the private sector to get talent to come to Chesterfield County and serve the community.”
Local funding will accommodate a 7% pay raise for teachers during the 2023-24 school year, with a total investment of $36.7 million for recruitment and retention. Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) also plans to raise the starting salary for teachers to $52,421.
Likewise, the FY24 budget increases starting salaries for public safety by 10% and provides a promised 2.25% step increase to current employees. Existing sworn personnel will receive an additional 10% pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2024.
More than 65 cents out of every dollar in the adopted budget that takes effect July 1 is allocated to education and public safety, the top two priorities consistently identified in citizen surveys.
“We want to make sure we’re one of the best places in the United States to live, work and play,” Carroll added. “You have to be safe in the process. You also have to know when your children go to school, they’re going to get a great education. We have great public safety and we have great schools.”
Education funding accounts for 50.4% of the total budget. The base transfer from the county’s general fund to CCPS increases by $20 million, an all-time high.
Other investments in the workforce include implementing Phase II of the general government pay study and raising the minimum hourly wage to $16. All eligible employees also will receive a 3.5% merit increase next January.
Additionally, the FY24 budget funds infrastructure improvements needed to keep pace with Chesterfield’s steady population growth. That includes commencing work on a slate of school and county capital projects that were overwhelmingly approved by voters in last November’s bond referendum.
Along with two previously approved middle schools, the School Board’s 5-year capital improvement program (CIP) has funding to replace A.M. Davis and Bensley elementary schools, construct a new elementary and high school in the western Route 360 corridor, and build a new elementary school in the Dale District. Several other school projects will be completed in future years of the plan.
In addition to those already begun -- replacement of Chester Fire Station No. 1, construction of Chesterfield’s first permanent police precinct near the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Chippenham Parkway, and enhancements to River City Sportsplex and Horner Park – the county’s FY24 referendum projects include replacement of the Enon Library, further infrastructure upgrades at River City Sportsplex and improvements to facilitate recreational access in public conservation areas.
By the end of the current five-year plan, 14 of the 16 projects in the bond referendum package will be either completed or under way.
The adopted budget also includes $153 million in local funding for construction of Phase I of the Powhite Parkway Extension, from its current terminus to Woolridge Road. Design work for the initial segment of the project is already under way.
In recognition of the inflationary pressures adversely affecting Chesterfield households, these investments are balanced against a comprehensive tax relief package totaling over $38 million.
“Weighing a decision on a budget this large takes a lot of consideration. We have all worked collaboratively with staff and the community. Emails that have been sent in didn’t fall on deaf ears: fund schools, fund public safety and cut my taxes,” Carroll said.
County homeowners and businesses will receive a 5% rebate on real estate tax bills due in early June. Combined with an already advertised 1-cent reduction in the real estate tax rate, the effective rate for this year will be 89 cents per $100 of assessed value – generating an average savings of about $125.
Even as personal property assessments are projected to fall by double digits this year, Chesterfield is continuing to mitigate the tax burden on personal property by establishing the relief threshold at 50%. Taken together, that will result in significant tax savings on the thousands of vehicles that are registered in the county.
Chesterfield has increased by 8.7% the income brackets for its 2023 real estate tax relief program for the elderly and disabled, ensuring no seniors become ineligible because of the recent cost-of-living increase in their monthly Social Security benefits.
The Board of Supervisors also approved an increase in the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) gross receipts threshold from $400,000 to $500,000, which will result in approximately 86% of local businesses being exempt from the tax.
“The traditional budget process that we go through annually is long, arduous and dependent upon our departmental leaders, citizens, businesses and elected officials all being engaged and working cohesively with our budget staff,” said County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey. “The culminating actions taken tonight will position the collective county and school workforce to provide the services needed by our citizens and students, while being mindful of the tax burden incurred in balancing a budget.”