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Henrico County proposes $54.8 million in pay increases for employees beginning this spring

The announced raises for government, HCPS workers would range from 4.4% to more than 14% depending on a number of factors.

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Henrico County has detailed a proposal that would provide sweeping salary adjustments for employees of the county’s general government and Henrico County Public Schools, beginning this spring and continuing into fiscal year 2021-22.

If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the plan would represent the most substantial effort to ensure the pay of Henrico’s public workforce remains competitive and that long-tenured employees are recognized for their service and experience.

The plan would apply a series of pay increases to different employee groups over the coming months, resulting in pay increases ranging from 4.4% to more than 14% in some instances. Teachers, for example, would receive raises totaling 6.9%. These increases along with ones for police officers and firefighters would make Henrico the region’s pay leader for these critical positions. The county has nearly 11,800 employees between its general government and school system (HCPS).

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas, who outlined the plan at tonight’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, said the reinvestment in employees is possible due to the county’s conservative fiscal management, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the Board of Supervisors adopted the county’s budget for fiscal 2020-21 last spring, officials eliminated about $99 million in proposed expenses, including a 3% pay increase for general government and HCPS employees.

The ​plan salary adjustments will be formally considered this spring as part of a budget for fiscal 2021-22 and would cost a combined $54 million in the current and next fiscal years. The adjustments, which will not require a tax rate increase, stem from Henrico’s review of employee compensation that started in 2018. In addition, officials are beginning to increase the county’s minimum wage, with a rate of $15 per hour expected within two years.

“These raises for our hardworking county and HCPS employees are much needed and well deserved,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel J. Schmitt, of the Brookland District. “As a county, we are able to consider a plan of this magnitude only because of Henrico’s many years of conservative fiscal management. The unknowns we faced as we entered the pandemic last year forced us to make extremely difficult decisions about our budget. Because of the aggressive cuts we made then, we are able to take bold action now.”

Other board members agreed.

“The pandemic has proven that great employees really are invaluable,” said Vice Chairman Patricia S. O’Bannon, of the Tuckahoe District. “Henrico must take these steps to ensure that our salaries remain competitive so we can continue to attract and retain the most experienced, well-trained and efficient workforce.”

“COVID-19 has tested our employees in ways that we could not have imagined,” Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton said. “As a county, we must recognize their continued commitment, hard work and ingenuity. These pay adjustments show that Henrico has heart and cares deeply about those who serve our residents, businesses and community every day.”

“I appreciate the dedication and patience our first responders, teachers and other county and HCPS employees have shown throughout the pandemic,” Three Chopt District Supervisor Thomas M. Branin said. “Last spring, we asked them to do more and to work longer, even as we tabled a proposed pay increase. It is a blessing that we can now provide these well-earned raises. This plan will allow Henrico to remain the pay leader for the region.”

“Employees are the heart and soul of Henrico County’s government and its school system,” Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson said. “They are on the front lines as teachers, police officers and firefighters. They care for our roads, pick up our trash and work in countless other ways that reflect in Henrico’s stellar reputation and great quality of life. I am pleased to be able to support a plan that acknowledges the dedication and hard work of those who directly serve our community.”

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Downtown

City Council unanimously approves sale of the Public Safety Building

The city is selling the three-acre property to Capital City Partners, LLC for $3,520,456 who will then redevelop the site into a $325 million mixed-use project anchored by VCU Health System, The Doorways, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

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Richmond City Council approved three Ordinances introduced by the Stoney Administration for the sale and redevelopment of the site of the of the existing Public Safety Building. The city is selling the three-acre property to Capital City Partners, LLC for $3,520,456 who will then redevelop the site into a $325 million mixed-use project anchored by VCU Health System, The Doorways, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The negotiated sales price takes into account the developer’s responsibility to demolish the existing building and build public infrastructure that includes reconstructing Clay Street between 9th and 10th Streets.

“The sale and redevelopment of the Public Safety Building site is a critical first step to improving downtown,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.  “My Administration was glad to work with City Council and Capital City Partners, LLC to create this great win for Richmond.

The project will aid minority businesses, create child care slots for Richmond families, fund scholarships for graduates of Richmond Public Schools, and generate nearly $56 million in new revenue for the city’s General Fund over the first 25 years. We can, and we will, continue to grow Richmond by redeveloping underutilized city-owned property.”

“For many years the city has needed to find a better use for the Public Safety Building site.  I am glad that City Council has approved this important project that moves the city forward in redeveloping our Downtown, benefits our community, and strengthens healthcare in the city and region,” said Councilmember Ellen Robertson.

“We want to thank Mayor Stoney and Richmond City Council for supporting the sale of this property and allowing this important development to go forward.  Too often real estate transactions are thought of only in terms of investment and economics, but not in the lives they improve.  This project will help improve the lives of thousands of families in crises and will further Richmond’s reputation as an important healthcare capital,” said Capital City Partners’ Susan Eastridge and Michael Hallmark.

“VCU and VCU Health are strongly committed to the redevelopment of this area.  The Public Safety Building Project, along with the current construction of our new children’s inpatient hospital and Adult Outpatient Pavilion, will play a critical role in supporting a thriving urban center,” said Michael Rao, president of VCU and VCU Health System.

“We are pleased that the City has chosen to move forward with the sale of the Public Safety Building to Capital City Partners, LLC.  This announcement marks the beginning of a long-awaited initiative to breathe fresh life into this section of the city, while providing a much needed new home for The Doorways to lodge the thousands of families who depend on our services to access their medical care.  This announcement is truly a win-win for the Doorways and the entire Richmond community,” said Stacy Brinkley, President and CEO of The Doorways.

“As specialty pediatric care grows in the Richmond region, so does the need to support the whole family.  A new, fully-accessible Ronald McDonald House provides more capacity to help families whose sick and injured children are receiving care at all pediatric hospitals throughout the Richmond region as well as families whose children are the most vulnerable and medically complex being cared for at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.  This project is a game changer for pediatric healthcare,” said Kerry Blumberg, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond.

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Downtown

Jefferson Davis Highway in the process of being renamed following House vote

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

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By Cameron Jones

The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill renaming sections of U.S. Route 1 almost 100 years after it was named in honor of the first and only president of the Confederacy.

The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.

Counties and cities have until Jan. 1, 2022 to change their portion of Jefferson Davis Highway to whatever name they choose, or the state will change it to Emancipation Memorial Highway.

“Change the name on your own, or the General Assembly will change it for you,” Cole said to House committee members.

Sections of the highway that run through Stafford, Caroline, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield counties will need new signage and markers, according to the bill’s impact statement. Commemorative naming signs will be replaced, along with overhead guide signs at interchanges and street-name signs. The changes are estimated to cost almost $600,000 for all localities. The changes in Chesterfield will cost an estimated $373,000 because there are 17 Jefferson Davis Highway overhead signs on Routes 288 and 150.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy conceived the plan for Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway in 1913, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Davis was a Mississippi senator who became the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Virginia General Assembly designated U.S. Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway in 1922.

“Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy, a constant reminder of a white nationalist experiment, and a racist Democrat,” Cole said. “Instead we can acknowledge the powerful act of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Cole said the change acknowledges the positive history of the Civil War and reminds people of the emancipation and freedom that came from it.

The bill received little pushback in House and Senate committees. A Richmond City representative said their initial concern was the interpretation if districts would have the opportunity to choose a replacement name. Signs are already going up renaming the route to Richmond Highway in Richmond.

Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, voiced his support for the bill. He responded to concern that the change dishonors a veteran. He said he believes the bill “strikes a reasonable balance” by giving counties time to rename their portion of the highway, or they will give it a default name which “doesn’t carry the political baggage.”

A poll by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Virginians are still divided on changing the names of schools, streets and military bases named after Confederate leaders (44% supported the idea and 43% opposed it).

Eric Sundberg, Cole’s chief of staff, said there were two camps of people that opposed the bill. He said some were openly racist and called Cole’s office to make offensive remarks. Then there were people who said they did not want to “double dip” on renaming the portion in their respective district and wanted it all to be named Richmond Highway.

Stephen Farnsworth, professor and director at the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said efforts to rename the highway have never received much support in Richmond until this year.

“Virginia has rapidly moved from a commonwealth that treasured its Confederate legacy, to one that is trying to move beyond it,” Farnsworth said.

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Education

Henrico Schools asks community for feedback as division examines relationship between police, schools

Henrico County Public Schools is announcing an update to the school division’s memorandum of understanding with the Henrico County Police Division. In doing so, HCPS invites the community to review the updated MOU document and make comments via an online form.

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Henrico County Public Schools is announcing an update to the school division’s memorandum of understanding with the Henrico County Police Division. In doing so, HCPS invites the community to review the updated MOU document and make comments via an online form.

The 11-page document is designed to coordinate efforts, facilitate communication and establish a mutually beneficial framework for HCPS and the police division. It covers the roles and responsibilities of both organizations; procedures for various situations; legal and financial responsibilities; and evaluation of the agreement in the future. Virginia school divisions that employ school resource officers are required by law to create a similar agreement with their city or county law enforcement agency.

The public is invited to review the revised memorandum and offer written feedback by going to the school division’s website athttps://henricoschools.us and looking under “Hot Topics.” Feedback must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on March 7.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell and Henrico Police Chief Eric English will review and consider written feedback on the revised agreement before formalizing the MOU agreement in March.

In an earlier part of this review process, the HCPS Office of Equity, Diversity and Opportunity also organized 12 input meetings in September, October and December of 2020 including HCPS leaders, teachers, students, parents and guardians, school-based mental health staff, behavioral support staff, school resource officers and school security officers.

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