City of Hampton puts tough budget questions to residents
The City of Hampton is putting tough budget questions to its residents.
The city is holding an outreach for input before proposing its annual budget. This year's budget will be based on declining revenue, which have been on a downward trend for the past three years.
The city is facing a 6 percent decline in home values, along with decreasing state revenue. Additionally complicating the matter is the fact that the city is required to pay increasing costs for retirement and unfunded mandates.
The first of several outreach sessions was held Feb. 28 at Hunter Andrews School in Wythe. City Manager Mary Bunting informed those in attendance that "choices this year will be difficult," thanks to consolidation of departments and restructuring that have left the city with only a skeleton crew of 12.88 staffers per 1,000 residents.
Hampton city property taxes are among the lowest in the area, and currently stand at $1.04 per $1,000 of assessed home value. Only Suffolk and Virginia Beach charge less property tax, with 97 cents and 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value, respectively.
Bunting has asked the Public Safety Department to identify potential budget cuts of 3 percent, while other departments are considering ways to cut up to 7 percent.
This year's budget questions are being moved from general to specific, with ideas including reduced library hours or closing branches to cut costs. Summer lifeguards, school crossing guards, youth programs, the Citizens Unity Commission and support for Fort Wool are also facing potential cuts.
Additional questions on the table include issues such as further staff cuts, which will in turn create longer waits for building permits and inspections, as well as vendor payments, plus fewer road repairs and the cessation of evening 311 and animal control services. Also facing potential cuts are programs for families and at-risk youth.
Three more public meetings are scheduled for April 25, May 2 and May 9, in addition to public polling events Wednesday, March 7 and Saturday, March 10. People who can't attend the meetings are encouraged to participate in the city's online poll, located at www.hampton.gov/ivalue.
The City of Hampton's Budget Office is on the seventh floor of City Hall, 22 Lincoln Street, Hampton.
For more information, contact the City of Hampton's Budget Office at 757-727-6377.