Declining property values spell tough times in Henrico

By Matt Butner - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The total value of homes and commercial property in Henrico County dropped more than expected in the past year. That value is down by $2.7 billion, or 8%. The resulting loss of tax revenue means the county will have to deal with a $15-20 million budget hole.

County manager Virgil Hazelett has some strong opinions when it comes to balancing the budget.

"My sound and basic principle to start with is no reduction in services, no layoffs of people," said Hazelett Wednesday morning.

But those principles are being put to the test by the county's current and forecast revenue realities. Home values are down sharply, and commercial property is faring even worse. Furthermore, the county expects to receive less money from the Commonwealth for next year. The final deficit number is still unknown.

"We need that number in order to determine the overall reduction in revenues to Henrico County," he said, "so that we can look at all the departments and determine what we're going to do."

The belt-tightening has already begun across all county departments.

"We have called for a 2.5% reduction in everyone's budget," said Hazelett. "We have called for all travel and tuition to be eliminated from the budgets. We're doing a number of different steps in order to reduce what we anticipate."

Among the steps Hazelett hopes to avoid is raising property taxes to offset the decline in property values.

"My position going into this budget right now is that we will not raise taxes. It will not be a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to raise taxes."

But Hazelett concedes that until the full budget picture is known, nothing is guaranteed.

"Once we do that, we of course have to look at the budgets again," he said.

On the bright side, Hazelett says the housing market appears to have bottomed out, and businesses are slowly adding jobs.

"The business community is out there, and I think they are beginning to thrive," said Hazelett, before adding "but we've got a long way to go yet."

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