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Henrico outlines $1.4 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021-22

The proposed plan would advance projects, services after last year’s “ultraconservative” budget.

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The Henrico County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday received a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would strengthen investments in education, public safety, and other core services, provide a generational boost to employee pay and advance key capital projects, including the final ones from the 2016 bond referendum and a treatment-based recovery center for those struggling with addiction.

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas presented a $1.4 billion budget for fiscal 2021-22 that builds slightly on the plan that was under consideration last spring before the onset of the pandemic. Officials ultimately eliminated $100 million in planned expenses as a hedge against COVID-19’s uncertain impacts on revenues.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2021-22 includes a $983.9 million general fund to support most governmental operations. That represents a $21.4 million, or 2.2%, increase over the budget that was initially proposed for fiscal 2020-21 and an $84.8 million, or 9.4%, increase over the plan that was ultimately adopted with the extensive cuts.

“COVID-19 has made this past year challenging in many ways,” Vithoulkas said. “From a budget standpoint, we were extremely cautious last spring and set aside key initiatives, including many capital projects and employee raises because we did not know then how substantially our revenues would be impacted by the pandemic.

“Fortunately, we have seen revenues outperform our ultraconservative projections as well as growth tied to new construction, the hot real estate market, and strong consumer spending late last year. As a result, we have prepared a budget that will allow us to build a stronger, more vibrant Henrico County, with excellent schools, thriving businesses, and an unmatched quality of life for everyone.”

Highlights of the proposed budget include:

  • No change to the real estate tax rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value. The county’s rate has not increased, although it has decreased, in the past 43 years;
  • A $707.5 million operating budget for Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), an increase of $65 million, or 10%, over the current year. The plan would support additional positions for the fall openings of the new J.R. Tucker High, Highland Springs High and expanded Holladay Elementary schools. The budget also would support the Achievable Dream Academy’s expansion to the sixth grade;
  • More than $224 million for capital projects, including the final projects planned as part of the 2016 bond referendum. Among these are a renovation of Adams Elementary School, a new firehouse along Nine Mile Road, and improvements to various parks, including the development of Taylor Park, upgrades to Tuckahoe Park and Three Lakes Park, and an expansion of Tuckahoe Creek Park. In addition, $54 million would be set aside for career and technical education centers at Hermitage and Highland Springs high schools;
  • $9 million for construction of a transitional recovery center, which was recommended by the county’s Recovery Roundtable to help reduce jail overcrowding by enhancing substance use treatment and other services for adults struggling with addiction;
  • $22.5 million in new funding from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, which would support various road projects as well as sidewalk and other pedestrian facilities;
  • $4.1 million for initiatives to continue to reduce stormwater pollution and mitigate residential drainage;
  • $57.6 million for a comprehensive employee-compensation plan that would reward longevity, provide market adjustments for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public safety employees, and begin to increase the county’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Overall, the plan would provide pay increases from a minimum of 4.4% for general government employees and 6.9% for HCPS teachers to more than 14% for employees who are eligible for both market adjustments and longevity pay;
  • $585,896 to support the creation of a sports authority, which would guide the county’s sports tourism program and oversee sites and venues, such as the planned indoor sports and event center at Virginia Center Commons;
  • An average increase in water and sewer rates of $3.05 per month for residential customers to keep pace with service and maintenance needs. Due to the pandemic, officials withdrew a rate increase that was initially proposed for fiscal 2020-21 and placed a moratorium on disconnections of water and sewer service for late or nonpayment.

The Board of Supervisors will begin its review of the proposed budget during legislative work sessions March 15-19. The meetings will be held in rooms 2029 and 2030 of the Henrico County Training Center, 7701 E. Parham Road, and will be available for remote viewing via WebEx. All sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for the one set for 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 16.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 in the Board Room at the Henrico Government Center, 4301 E. Parham Road. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13. Once approved, the budget will guide operating and capital spending for the year beginning July 1.

Copies of the proposed budget are available at Henrico libraries, the Office of Management and Budget in the Henrico Government Center, and at henrico.us.

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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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VDH announces new QR codes to verify COVID-19 vaccination status

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

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The Virginia Department of Health today announced the addition of QR codes – a type of barcode that can be scanned with smartphones – to Virginia COVID-19 vaccination records.

QR codes – short for “quick response” – are commonly used in retail, logistics, and other sectors. The technology allows anyone to show proof of vaccination with a digital or printed QR code instead of a paper card, and without the need for an app. As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Biden and Governor Northam to require that employees and customers be vaccinated, QR codes will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

QR codes contain the same information as paper records, but in a format that offers greater security and efficiency. Because the QR code is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, it cannot be altered or forged. Information from QR codes is only available if and when the individual chooses to share it. Businesses and employers that choose to verify an individual’s vaccination status can scan QR codes with the free SMART Health Verifier App. Individuals do not need to download an app to use QR codes.

Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes, empowering individuals with trustworthy and verifiable copies of their vaccination records in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards. The framework and standards were developed by VCI, a coalition of more than 800 public and private organizations – including The Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, MITRE, and The Commons Project Foundation.

QR codes are available to anyone whose vaccination record includes a working phone number and is in the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS). Nearly all doses administered in Virginia are reported to VIIS, including pharmacies, physician offices, health department clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community vaccination centers. Some doses administered outside Virginia to Virginia residents may be in VIIS. Doses administered directly by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs are not reported to VIIS. A person whose record cannot be retrieved automatically may call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) for assistance.

With more than 10.2 million doses of vaccine administered so far in Virginia, more than 58% of the population is fully vaccinated. Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated now. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

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Government

Va. Supreme Court clears way for removal of Lee monument in Richmond

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

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By Ned Oliver

The Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way Thursday for Gov. Ralph Northam to remove the Lee Monument in Richmond, one of the largest Confederate memorials in the state.

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

Northam announced he planned to take down the state-owned memorial in June 2020.

This is a breaking news update and will be updated as the situation develops.

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Community

Community Vaccination Hubs to Open in September

“These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.” – Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD

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From the Richmond Health District:

Starting in September, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will open four COVID-19 vaccination hubs that will each operate weekly in the coming months. These four small hubs will supplement RHHD’s ongoing pop up events in partnership with large employers, faith communities, community organizations, and more.

The opening of the four hubs follows the closing of RHHD’s last mass vaccination site at George Wythe High School earlier this month. Hubs are located in Richmond’s downtown and southside and in eastern and western Henrico to provide access to multiple communities.

“What we learned throughout our vaccination efforts so far is that a combination of clinics at stable locations and pop up events with community outreach is helpful in creating vaccine access,” explains Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD. “These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.”

The clinic locations and times are as follows:

  • Tuesdays, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm (first clinic on September 7th): Second Baptist Church (3300 Broad Rock Blvd)
  • Wednesdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: Henrico Recreation Center (1440 N Laburnum Ave)
  • Thursdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: RHHD Downtown Location (400 E Cary St)
  • Fridays, 9:00 am-12:00 pm: RHHD Henrico West Location (8600 Dixon Powers Dr)

To learn more about all available COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, visit vax.rchd.com.

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