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Three things to know from Norfolk’s proposed city budget

Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall (lower right) are set to get a combined $150 million set of renovations under Norfolk’s proposed budget. (Photo by Kyle J. Little via Shutterstock)
Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall (lower right) are set to get a combined $150 million set of renovations under Norfolk’s proposed budget. (Photo by Kyle J. Little via Shutterstock)

Norfolk City Manager Patrick Roberts unveiled a proposed $2 billion city budget Tuesday night.

The City Council will spend the next several weeks debating and tweaking the proposal.

Here are three notable elements in Roberts’ draft:

The real estate tax rate will go down, but higher assessments will still mean bigger bills

Like Virginia Beach, Norfolk is planning to cut its real estate tax rate by 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, or about a 1.6% reduction. 

But property values are continuing to rise. Norfolk’s overall assessments are going up 6.4% this year, so property owners will still pay roughly 5% more when the tax bill arrives. That amounts to roughly $150 for the median homeowner in the city.

The tax rate cut is meant to soften the blow of the growing assessments, which have climbed in the years since the start of the pandemic.

Creating a housing trust fund

Housing trust funds directly fund projects that improve housing availability and have been used in hundreds of cities across the nation, including several in Virginia.

Norfolk’s not actually funding one yet, but the budget says city staff will develop the policies and financial structure of a housing trust fund. Those are expected to be presented to the city council later in the year. 

“As you saw in the recommendations from the housing studyjust a couple weeks ago, it's critical we stand up a housing trust fund,” Roberts said. 

If city leaders agree, officials say the money could be secured during the upcoming fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025.

That’s in stark contrast to Virginia Beach. Despite that city’s recent housing study also listing a housing trust fund as the top way to improve housing affordability, several council members told City Manager Patrick Duhaney that they wouldn’t be on board with diverting city money into such an effort. 

“I couldn’t, in good conscience, put our tax dollars into something like this,”  said Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson, pushing for staff to develop solutions that wouldn’t cost Virginia Beach any cash.

Big money to redo Scope and Chrysler Hall

Norfolk’s budget proposal includes $150 million over the next four years to overhaul the Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall. The projects have been the subject of several city studies and a topic of council conversation for many years.

The facilities, built in 1971 and 1972 respectively, haven’t had much in the way of meaningful upgrades since they opened their doors.

Renovations include improving and expanding ticketing facilities, seating, concessions and restrooms in both buildings; back-of-house upgrades; and modernizing the mechanical, electrical and other building systems.

Roberts said the overhauls should “breathe new life and another several decades of use” into those facilities.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

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