The People’s Budget FY 19-20

FY 2019-20 Proposed ExecSummary WEB

Virginia Beach Call to ActionWhen Councilman Moss and I collaborated again this spring in creating an alternative budget to what our City Manager has given to Council, our priorities have remained steadfast as they did in last year’s budget cycle. Our priorities are:

  • The people of Virginia Beach have the first right to the wages their family has earned;

  • The quality of life of the people of Virginia Beach should not be diminished in favor of the seemingly insatiable urge of our representatives to spend frivolously on projects that do not enhance the livability of our community;

  • The long-term sustainability and livability of the people of Virginia Beach is an utmost consideration and we must take the necessary steps to strengthen the long-term resiliency of our Community for a Lifetime;

  • The ‘needs’ of the people of Virginia Beach must be budgeted before the ‘wants’ of councilmembers

The need for our colleagues on City Council to adopt our People’s Budget is simple: we, as a body, must create a budget that mirrors the economic realities faced by several thousands of our constituents. 44% of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch; the percentage of our community that is labeled as being in poverty has grown over the last decade to 8%; more than half (51.5%) of renters in Virginia Beach spend more than 30% of their income on rent – which has increased over the last decade – which means more residents are financially stressed; our regional GDP growth rate is at 1.8%, which is lower than the national average of 2.3%, and the City Manager’s proposed budget outpaces our regional economic growth. Therefore, any tax or fee increase is inherently regressive and disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged residents. Additionally, city spending that outpaces regional economic growth is not sustainable.

Our priorities in the creation of the People’s Budget were simple:

  • No increase in real estate tax

  • No increase in stormwater management fee

  • No increase in trash fee

  • Public Safety pay compression

  • Increase investment in drainage maintenance

  • Increase available debt capacity for flood mitigation projects

Collectively, Councilman Moss and I had to find $14.47 million in the City Manager’s proposed budget to cut in order to offset proposed tax and fee increases. I’m proud to say that we accomplished what we set out to do for the People’s Budget!

  • $14,888,396 of recurring expenditure offsets reapplied

  • $4,320,325 of one-time expenditure offsets reapplied

  • $45,695,250 of funded debt capacity realigned to accelerate implementation of flood mitigation projects

  • $30,750,000 of debt capacity reserved for future investment in flood mitigation projects

How did we adjust the City Manager’s proposed budget in order to accomplish our goals for the people of Virginia Beach and offset more than $14.47 million in increases?

  • Adjustment of TIP funding formula to reduce amusement tax contribution from 10-percent to 5-percent = $3,509,689

  • Realignment of 10 FTEs back to the TAP Funding = $885,457

  • Reduction of General Fund new vehicle procurement by twenty percent = $1,071,502 ($4,286,738 remains available)

  • Elimination of 53.47 new City FTEs = estimated $3,475,550 (City Manager will have to prioritize his proposed new positions relative to vacancies existing at current adopted budget authorized FTEs)

  • Adjustments to Other Departments = $3,746,089

  • Lapse Rate and other Labor efficiencies = $2,200,109

  • Eliminate new “Strategic Initiatives” budget line item (which had no justification in departmental narrative) = $2,500,000

  • Hold City Manager’s office to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $200,594)

  • Hold total expenditures of Human Resources department at FY 18-19 levels (offset = $159,948)

  • Reduce 19.82% increase over current budget for Information Technology by half (offset = $266,404)

  • Hold total expenditures at current budget for Municipal Council to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $79,088 and eliminates growth of 13.5 percent)

  • Hold the budget line item “Computer Replacement Program” to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $469,647 and eliminates 3.9% increase)

  • Eliminate contribution to Hampton Roads Chamber (offset = $10,000) due to the group’s active involvement in influencing our local elections

  • Realign 10 positions transferred to the unrestricted General Fund in May 2017 back to the TAP fund for an increase in the General Fund of $885,457 (recurring revenue)

  • Parks and Recreation: reduce Pay-as-You-Go General Fund growth of 100 percent to 50 percent growth (offset = $450,567)

  • Information Technology: the FY 20 programmed funding in the FY 18-19 CIP was $17,843,657. The FY 20 programmed funding in the FY 19-20 CIP was $20,697,771. The overall FY 20 growth in the FY 19-20 CIP over the FY 18-19 CIP was $3,869,668, or 21.68%, so reinstate the FY 18-19 CIP amount for FY 20 as the amount for FY 20 in the FY 19-20 CIP (offset = $3,867,668)

  • Realign 50% of amusement tax revenues to the General Fund (which equates to $3,509,689 of recurring revenues and offset for the $3,509,689 in TIP Revenues)

  • Eliminate CIP for Dome Site Entertainment Venue ($28,500,000)

  • Defer the start of CIP # 9039000 [17th Street Improvement Phase 1] until FY 23 ($2,000,000 in FY 20, $6,500,000 in FY 21 and $17,500,000 in FY 22)

  • Defer the start of CIP # 9063000 [17th Street Improvement] until FY 23 ($250,000 in FY 20, $1,000,000 in FY 21 and $1,000,000 in FY 22)

  • Released TIP Dollars for Reallocation $5,394,418 within TIP for Pay-As-You and limit contingency funding to 6% for the following CIP projects in FY 20

    • CIP Project P9100000 [19th Street Improvements] -$540,386

    • CIP Project P9065000 [Dome Site Parking] – $2,089,800

    • CIP Project P9050000 [Dome Site Street Scapes] – $743,000

    • CIP Project P9096000 [Oceanfront Capital Projects Reinvestment] -$787,832

    • CIP Project P9006000 [Winston Salem Avenue Improvements] -$783,400

  • Recommend new CIP Project Atlantic Ave Refurbishment in FY 20 with $5,394,418 (Pay-As-You-Go)

  • And finally, to increase funded debt capacity for flooding, defer CIP Project #3072000 City Hall Replacement to FY 26 (outside the six-year) by realigning the authorized bonds in the FY 18-19 in the amount of $50,250,000 less estimated expenditures of $4,304,750 (design) and $250,000 (study only). This provides $45,695,250 of funded bonds to accelerate implementation of flood mitigation projects

Last year, we held strong and the people of Virginia Beach were able to keep more of what they earn. This year, we can repeat our success – but only if you contact your representatives on Council. You can email us at CityCouncil@vbgov.com. Tell them you support The People’s Budget!

The Truth Will Prevail in Virginia Beach

Bruce Thompson recently mentioned me in an article and threatened to leave the city entirely if there was a change in leadership on the Virginia Beach City Council. After my response, he then dismissed my opinion, doubled-down and said that I “went nuts” and I am “jealous”.

Are we unable to even gracefully disagree?

Overreactions like this is a prime example of why many people become frustrated about getting involved in politics. Mr. Thompson painted my disagreement with a brush of hysteria; perhaps that is how he handles dissent.

Despite his business successes here, Mr. Thompson threatened to pull his investment from the the city altogether if there was new city leadership – a mighty thick line to draw in the sand. Why would a potential change in leadership shift your bottom line so drastically that you would seek an entirely new location?

Well, there are theories.

Crony capitalism: an economic system in which certain businesses are given unfair advantages by government officials; that’s a $36 million pill for some of us to swallow. Considering the megadonor status of Mr. Thompson in buying influence with several government officials through campaign contributions, the inappropriateness practically writes itself.

Cronyism is a term that Mr. Thompson attempts to shrug off, but it has surfaced that Mr. Thompson did in fact enjoy preferential treatment from the City in 2013 with the bidding process on the Cavalier project; he was given insider information that other bidders were not. Mr. Thompson was offered incentives that other bidders were not. These facts were reported in this very newspaper on November 8, 2015, more than two years after investigative journalism uncovered the truth.

Saving the iconic Cavalier and the amount of taxpayer money that has been funneled to it are entirely different issues that should not be conflated with the process that I raised concern with originally: the City should not be picking winners and losers. In an economic system that turns a blind eye to the deleterious effects of cronyism, insiders such as Mr. Thompson are insulated from competition while their pockets are deepened from political connections and taxpayers are left to absorb the risk. This rings true in light of the recent Disparity Study that was unveiled to City Council this week, which shows that a steep disparity still persists in city contracts awarded to women and certain ethnic groups. A more equitable, level playing field will foster competition, encourage economic growth and will signal that our City is open for business for all.

Mr. Thompson also used a tactic called gaslighting – putting audacious words in my mouth in an attempt to mischaracterize and isolate. His claim centered on that I am against all Public Private Partnerships and cites educational cornerstones in our community like the Virginia Aquarium (which I’ve always supported). He uses this example as a cover for all types of Public Private Partnerships – including the ones that have enriched his own personal business interests. Public Private Partnerships can certainly be beneficial – when there is minimal risk, a real public need is addressed and there is public ownership in the project.

However, we the taxpayers, are not Mr. Thompson’s personal bank, and we must judiciously protect public funds for our responsibilities in public safety, education, infrastructure and transportation. We all have to find a way to make our household budgets work with what he have, and our City budget should strive to mirror your own.

The compromise budget proposal my Council colleagues and I unilaterally voted in featured no tax and fee increases for only the second time in 25 years. Mr. Thompson wrongly accused the alternate budget I co-sponsored with Councilmembers Moss and Dyer of “raiding” the TIP fund for garbage trucks (that was a recommendation made by the City Manager and was not a part of the original budget proposal we co-sponsored). Mr. Thompson also charged that our first budget proposal would have “stripped funding for stormwater projects”. Better flooding mitigation has always remained one of my top priorities even before Hurricane Matthew, so I honestly do not know how anyone could have any different impression. Councilmembers Moss, Dyer and I initially tried to fund the nearly half a billion dollars in flooding projects in 6 years, not 15, without raising taxes or fees – but the majority of City Council chose to not make flooding a budgetary priority.

In conclusion, Mr. Thompson, just so we’re clear – I refuse to be chained inside of your fabricated “No Team”. I have high standards of how our city conducts business and this does not make me a naysayer, nor as you stated, one who is “cursing the wind”.

This election offers us a choice: we can choose fiscal responsibility or we can choose higher taxes and fees and more debt. We can put the needs of our classrooms, our public safety professionals and our neighborhoods ahead of the wants of an elite few. I urge Beach residents who also want good government to join me in supporting Bobby Dyer for mayor and John Moss and Aaron Rouse for at-large City Council members, as well as Louis Jones in the Bayside District, Eric Wray in the Centerville District and Tim Worst in the Princess Anne District.

No matter the outcome of the election, we must find a way to work together. We live in a truly great place and so many of us are happy to call it home.