HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County unveiled its proposed budget for the coming year on Wednesday, March 2, totaling over $1 billion in revenue as rising home prices fuel a surge in taxes.

Major proposals included a 5% across-the-board pay increase for county employees, the hiring of 20 new police officers and a $511 million bond referendum planned for November.

Relief for Homeowners, None for Drivers

According to county assessors, the total value of all real estate in Henrico rose by a staggering $5.4 billion – but homeowners and corporations will be shielded from some of that increase, as the county has announced a “2+2” cent reduction in the tax rate.

That means a permanent reduction of two cents, bringing Henrico’s property tax rate to 85 cents – by far the lowest in the Richmond region. That goes hand in hand with a two cent tax credit, which will be paid to homeowners in the coming weeks.

While home prices rose by a reported 10.4% across the county, vehicle assessments – from which personal property taxes are drawn – rose by 18%.

The county didn’t announce any personal property tax relief for Henrico residents – but did include a proposal to cut taxes levied on biotechnology equipment by 74%, in a bid to attract high-tech companies.

School Funding

Funding for schools under the proposal will total $762.9 million, making it by far the largest part of the county’s spending.

The 5% pay increase will apply to all public school employees, and totals about $24 million in new spending.

Other priorities include new specialty centers at Hermitage and Varina high schools, expansion of the “Achievable Dream Academy” after-school program to include 7th graders and granting full-time employee status to instructional assistants.

By far the biggest investment will depend on voters, however, as they consider a proposed $511 million in municipal bonds to fund the construction and renovation of schools across the district.

If the bond is approved, officials project that they will have replaced or significantly renovated all but one of the county’s schools built before 1970 within ten years, with the lone exception being Ruby F. Carver Elementary in western Henrico.

Fire and Police

The bond referendum would also fund major improvements to the county’s fire stations, with three slated for complete rebuilds/relocations and four marked for major renovations. The referendum would also provide funds for a new animal shelter and “Public Safety Training Center.”

The county is also adding a number of personnel, starting with 20 new police officers, doubling the number of new hires from prior versions of the budget. The fire department will also hire 11 new personnel to staff the new Firehouse 23.

Finally, the budget proposal included more investments in the county’s sewage system. Priorities include the operation of a new reservoir on Cobb’s Creek, drainage improvements paid for by the bond referendum and an expansion of the sewer system to the tune of $75.5 million.

The projects come as the county faces a lawsuit over its failure to keep wastewater out of the James River, but the proposed improvements will require an increase in water and sewage fees for county residents.