[Editor's note:  The Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance sent the following to the City Council in advance of public budget discussions.]


Mayor and Members of the Virginia Beach City Council
Office of the City Clerk
Administration Building
George Mason Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Ref:  Development of the Proposed Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Operating and Capital Budgets

Dear Mayor and Members of the Virginia Beach City Council:

The Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance (VBTA) provides the following twenty-eight (28) recommendations for VBTA _120consideration to promote private sector job creation and individuals’ financial health as you individually and collectively develop your positions on the City’s (city and school) Fiscal Year 2011 – 2012 Operating and Capital Budgets:

1. Freeze all tax rates and fee schedules at the current rates except for:
a. Eliminate the machine and tool tax.
b. Reduce the Business Professional and Occupational License tax rates by ten percent as a down payment on phasing this tax out completely over the subsequent five budgets.

2.  No new taxes or fees unless the real estate tax rate is lowered by an amount such that the new taxes or fees are revenue neutral over the current and forecasted next ten year period and the adopted ordinance or ordinances contain a provision for automatic downward adjustments in the real estate tax rate if revenues exceed the forecasted amount.

3. No salary increases for employees or increases in benefits.  Except for:
a. A one-time bonus payment per city employee, excluding the City Manager and executive pay scale employees, not to exceed two percent of salary and not to exceed $1400 is supportable if all other VBTA fiscal parameters are met.
b. Granting all first line supervisor and below police officers that serve on the street and firefighters that serve on the truck a one-time award of 16 hours of qualified annual leave on the condition it must be used in the next twelve months and if not taken is not eligible for cash compensation.
c. School Board should adopt like provisions in its adopted budget.

4. Phase in employees (hired before the policy change in last year’s budget) paying the employee’s share of their VSRS retirement contribution at the rate of 1 percent per year over the next five years.

5. Reduce by at least 20 percent the amount of debt to be issued over the amount now documented in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 and across the five-year programmed forecast.

6. Cease any further expenditure of funds to study, plan for or otherwise promote light rail to include the acquisition of property or equity interest in any partnership until a referendum is approved by the voters.

7. Reallocate the priorities in the Capital Improvement Plan exclusively to public safety, schools, and roads with the exception of projects funded from the water and sewer enterprise account and the “rain tax” enterprise account.

8. Cap trustee accounts (not including the water and sewer enterprise account and the “rain tax” account) at ninety percent of this year’s expenditures (excluding borrowed funds, but including principal and interest payments on borrowed funds) with the forecasted excess being appropriated for general fund non-trustee account service delivery requirements.

9. Eliminate the School Funding formula and put the city and schools on a “needs based” budget where city and school requirements compete against each other and against the public’s rightful expectation to keep more of what they earn.
a. VBTA is of the judgment that the School Board has been a much better steward of the taxpayers’ money than City Council, and that after police and fire the highest priority in the community is public education. The former is not an unqualified endorsement of the School Board’s expenditure of taxpayers’ funds.

10. Except for education do not replace funding for services impacted by reductions in federal and state funding. In the case of education, replacement of lost federal and state education funding has to compete for funding.

11. The top line operating budget for FY 11-12 shall not exceed  95 percent of the annualized execution of the monthly average execution for the first six months of the FY 10-11 operating budget.

12. Eliminate all positions budgeted but unfilled on 1 January 2011 except for uniformed public safety positions. Between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2011 eliminate 1 position for every three vacated position except for public safety positions.  

13. City Council would adopt a policy by ordinance requiring a two-third vote to add positions or increase spending over the number and amount respectively appropriated at the time of the adoption in May 2011. Additionally, any reprogramming of funds from one budget line item to another in excess of $10,000 for a single event or more greater than $100,000 total for all reprogramming of funds shall require formal public vote by City Council after a ten day.

14. Reduce by fifty percent all grants/contributions to third parties, for example, Hampton Roads District Planning.

15. Eliminate grants/contributions to the Chamber of Commerce, Forward Hampton Roads, and Hampton Roads Partnership.

16. Eliminate members in the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Virginia Municipal League as these organizations lobby against initiatives that protect private property rights and personal liberties.

17. Increase the funding by the amount saved from items 15 and 16 for Community Organization Incentive Grants for one-time grants for proposals that serve Beach residents who meet the federal poverty definition to include issuance of transit vouchers redeemable only for HRT services.

15. Freeze payments to HRT at FY 11 levels a de facto fence against  budgetary cuts in the FY 11-12 budget.  Routes and frequency may have to be adjusted to live within prior year City funding and changes in federal funding.

16. Eliminate the Strategic Growth Development Office.

17. Eliminate the payment for all lobbyists to the General Assembly, Congress, or any other governmental entity.

18. Initiate and complete individual studies to privatize permits and inspections, water meter reading, operation of recreation centers for implementation in the FY 13-14 budget.

19. Fully fund equipping police patrol cars with e-ticket capability that will enable an estimated twenty percent gain in police patrol officer productivity.

20. Eliminate car allowances for all city council appointees, constitutional officers, and department heads and other employees on the executive pay plan.

21. Reduce the budget for the Office of the City Manager by twenty-percent from the appropriated FY10-11 budget for all budget lines for that budget unit. Adopt a policy that precludes employees paid from Office of the City Manager budget unit in FY 11-12 from charging expenses to other budget units to circumvent the intent of this reduction.

22. Cap travel expenses across all budget units at seventy-five percent of the amount expended in the FY 10-11 budget.  The cap is at the City level not on each budget unit; however, the sum of all budget units’ travel cannot exceed seventy-five percent of the amount expended in the prior fiscal year.

23. Reduce wireless communications expense by fifteen percent.

24. Freeze purchases of new vehicles except for police patrol cars and fire trucks and reduce current inventory of vehicles by ten percent by 30 June 2012. Extend the mileage of vehicles by twenty percent prior to declaring them excess and for sale, unless a business case analysis shows otherwise and is posted on the City’s web page and provided to City Council at least thirty days prior to sale. City should consult FEDEX and UPS for the methodology they use to determine repair or overhaul rather than declaring excess for sale.

25. Invest in a pilot project to adopt the best practices of UPS, FEDEX, and the Postal Service to track and account for the miles placed on City vehicles are the minimum necessary to accomplish assigned tasks.

26. Establish in partnership with Old Dominion University an Academic Chair for assessing the economic impact of local and state fiscal policies on the discretionary income and profits of families and businesses respectively in an amount not to exceed $400,000. The incumbent independently selected by Old Dominion via an international search for a non-renewal three-year term would work out of the Graduate Education Center in Virginia Beach. Allowable cost would include relocation expense on both sides of the employment transaction, stipends for two graduate school assistants, salary and benefits, direct consumable supplies and IT charges, and a $20,000 travel budget. VBTA suggest it be called the Sidney Kellam Chair for Fiscal Policy Analysis. This initiative would be a win for all stakeholders wanting an objective understanding of how government fiscal policy impacts the discretionary incomes of families and profits of businesses. This initiative would add to the academic stature of Old Dominion University Graduate Center in Virginia Beach to the benefit of attending Beach residents. This initiative would be a win to City Council by increasing Council’s access to a body of knowledge and expertise to improve your understanding of the fiscal policies adopted. This would be a far better investment than the investments now made in other local, state, and selected non-profit agencies.  In recognition of the lead time required to work the logistics, the amount appropriated in FY 11-12 would be a phased lesser amount, with the full cost being experienced in the FY 12-13 budget. Obligation would be to two three-year chairs with a decision to renew the partnership taking place by January of the sixth year.

27. Grant businesses a dollar for dollar tax credit not to exceed the amount of business professional occupational license taxes paid by a business for each HRT transit voucher a given business purchased from HRT for their employees working in Virginia Beach.

28. Adopt a provision that no expenditure or conveyance of direct or indirect economic benefits that provides a subsidy to a private party or state agency to facilitate a private investment shall be authorized.

There is no doubt that families and businesses have made more difficult choices and endured greater sacrifices than the City and School Board.  To families and businesses trying to survive, the conversations during your informal sessions make taxpayers look out the window to see if the City Manager and his staff are on the same planet.  At a time when the federal and state governments finally acknowledge that families and businesses have no more to give, City staff (we believe at the Mayor’s bidding) is pushing a new fee – trash fee – with no intention of reducing the real estate tax rate.
Raising taxes and fees are job killers.

VBTA will address in more detail specific budget issues in subsequent communications. The bottom line is that families and businesses have no more money to give. City Council does not possess the moral high ground to ask families to take further reductions in their personal standard of living to feed the insatiable appetite for local government spending.

VBTA recognizes that fiscal austerity and uncertainty drives City Council to difficult decisions to redefine the service baseline to conform to a relatively flat revenue stream.  If you need help, almost any family or business can show you how to cut expenses.

John Moss - Chairman
Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance