Chesterfield County is upping starting salaries for first responders and teachers under its newly approved budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to adopt a $1.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2023, an increase of $185.3 million over the current FY22 budget. FY23 starts July 1.
The board also approved a 3-cent cut to the real estate tax rate, bringing it to 92 cents per $100 of assessed value.
A particular focus in the drafting of the budget was workforce compensation and retention. The county has allocated $35.6 million, or more than a third of a $98 million increase to the county’s general fund, toward increasing pay for employees. The general fund is the main operating fund of the budget and is pegged at $905.1 million for FY23.
The budget earmarks $12.5 million to bump up starting salaries for first responders and avoid salary compression — or when the gap closes between the salaries of lower-level and higher-level employees.
The county is increasing the starting pay of sworn first responders by 12 percent. New police officers and firefighters will have a starting salary of about $53,000 and sheriff’s deputies will have a starting salary of about $51,000 after graduation from the academy, Deputy County Administrator for Finance and Administration Matt Harris said during his presentation to the board Wednesday.
Another $15 million will go toward wage increases for non-public safety and non-school county employees. County officials have said they plan to increase the minimum hourly wage of county government jobs to $16 over the next few fiscal years.
The budget adjusts the salaries of county government employees with below-median wages. The budget also provides a 5 percent raise to employees who don’t work in public safety or the schools, and who are beyond that threshold already.
The budget earmarks $60 million for salary increases for school division employees. Harris said the budget includes $36 million to increase the starting salaries of teachers and school-based positions by 9 percent.
Teachers’ starting salaries will be about $49,500. School-based employees include principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors, instructional assistants and psychologists.
Chesterfield officials have said the emphasis on workforce compensation comes from a desire to make the county a competitive employer amid a tight labor market and shifting economy.
Despite the trimmed real estate tax rate, the county expects real estate tax revenue to increase to $473.3 million in FY23 (a $55.9 million increase compared to the current fiscal year), as a result of increased assessments.
The county will increase its utility rates to $2.36 per 100 cubic feet for water and $2.43 per 100 cubic feet for sewer and halve its vehicle registration fee to $20 in FY23.
The county’s five-year capital improvement plan earmarks $612.9 million in county government projects and $451.3 million in school division projects.
In November, Chesterfield plans to hold a bond referendum regarding $540 million in general obligation bonds to finance county government and school division projects.