County administrator Joe Casey presented a Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Friday, which the supervisors were scheduled to consider during their March 13 afternoon...

County administrator Joe Casey presented a Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Friday, which the supervisors were scheduled to consider during their March 13 afternoon work session.

The $733.5 million budget represents a $22 million increase, or 3 percent, over the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. It would leave the real estate property tax at 95 cents per $100 of assessed value, although property assessments are rising an average of 3 percent.

Schools represent 40.8 percent of the budget, with public safety the second largest area at 26.6 percent. Other areas include: capital, 8.2; health and welfare, 6.9; general government, 6.8; community development, 5.8; cultural, 3.1; and other, 1.8.

The budget includes a 3-percent pay raise for teachers, up to a 3-percent merit raise for qualified employees and higher starting salaries for sheriff’s deputies.

“FY20 marks the first time since 2009 that all qualifying employees may receive up to a 3-percent merit increase,” Casey said.

The county plans to begin implementing a five-year computer replacement cycle for its employees, he said.

More than $100,000 will be dedicated to Election Day stipends for 400 to 500 additional poll workers.

Casey was positive about the direction the county is headed. He noted that Chesterfield has an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent and is in a period of 117 consecutive months of economic expansion, which will be the nation’s longest if it lasts past June.

“The underlying assumptions in this plan are conservative, realistic and mindful of many topics in recent headlines that suggest the law of gravity will start to play out in the not-too-distant future,” Casey said.

In regard to schools, Casey said county staff continues to work with Chesterfield County Public Schools to develop a sustainable path for facility maintenance. This will be the focal point of the next referendum, he said. The county has agreed to fund an additional $7.7 million request from CCPS compared to last year’s budget.

In public safety, the county plans to equip its police officers with mobile broadband technology to ensure they have access to information from anywhere. The crime rate dropped 4.1 percent from 2017 to 2018, Casey said, noting there was a slowing in the growth of opioid overdoses and deaths. He said the county recently helped launch a regional opioid awareness campaign, and noted that the average daily population in the Chesterfield and Riverside Regional jails recently dropped.

The Capital Improvement Plan includes repurposing the former Beulah Elementary School into a community center and home of the parks and recreation department. The projected cost is $7.8 million. The county also plans to begin implementing the Northern Jefferson Davis Special Area Plan along Route 1.

Casey said a groundbreaking for the $16.8 million Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts could be sometime from April through June.

A pet adoption center is planned next to LaPrade Library. Zoning and design are scheduled to take 18 months, county spokeswoman Susan Pollard said.

The county is working on drafting a memorandum of understanding with Dominion Energy to ensure access remains open to Henricus Historical Park and Dutch Gap Conservation Area due to Dominion’s upcoming coal ash projects, Casey said.

A fourth water source for the county is being planned that would include a 40-million-gallons-a-day water treatment plant along the tidal Appomattox River. The project would ensure the county has enough water for another 100 years, Casey said.

The county is also evaluating ways to transition recycling customers to direct billing with private recycling companies.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Wednesday, March 27, with formal adoption set for Wednesday, April 10.

Public informational meetings about the budget are scheduled throughout the county from March 14 to March 26 (see brief on page 5).