May 9th, 2023
Faraldi for Lynchburg
— Lynchburg City Council Adopts 2024 Budget: Delivering On Our Promise —
Lynchburg, VA — At tonight's Lynchburg City Council meeting, after weekly meetings since March, the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget was up for the first reading and vote. Over the course of the evening, the council passed various resolutions and allocations totaling just over half a billion dollars. Since early March, council has met every week to conduct the business of the city and finalize the upcoming budget, culminating in tonight's action.
Vice Mayor Chris Faraldi, the Ward IV Representative on Council, issued the following statement regarding the budget:
It is a new day in Lynchburg.
Nearly three years ago, when I was first elected, a previous majority on council wrongly passed a multi-million dollar tax increase on property owners. Until January, that same majority also created horrible compression in the city workforce, enabled a continued decline of our public education system, fostered an environment where violent crime to dramatically increased, and more. Today, this new council has started to truly put an end to those policies.
Right now, taxes are too high in Lynchburg. That tax increase — now after the fact — with tens of millions of dollars in surplus and unexpected tax revenue, even with some on council fighting against its adoption (myself included), now see how it was clear such a tax hike was out of line. Thankfully, the voters saw this increase as we in the minority (of the time) of council did — wholly unnecessary.
So, because of increased taxes, crime, and an out-of-touch school board, those voters went to the polls last November and raised their voices and elected a Republican majority to council for the first time in two decades.
Meanwhile, the inflationary policies of Washington continue to stifle our bank accounts and everyone is feeling the pain of a diminished budget. Here in Lynchburg, folks have it no different. But we, as a governing body, have now done something about it.
Through this budget, we Republicans have solidified one key aspect of the platform that boldly won the day last November — cutting taxes. And, not only for property owners but for renters and businesses too. Candidly, I was hoping to find creative ways of returning dollars back in different ways; but our plan could return hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of our neighbors over the next year, and that is what a Republican government is all about.
Since early March, I have advocated for a Real Estate Tax Rate near the $0.89 mark. Now, I am pleased to see council officially adopt this policy. For me, adopting the right rate was most critical, a rate that afforded the city government with enough tax dollars to grow and meet its core responsibilities while generating relief for property owners. This rate does just that, and we now have a council that is placing the taxpayer top of mind, first and foremost.
Another key priority of our Republican caucus was to heavily invest in public safety. In Fiscal Year 24, among other items, we're hiring more positions for police officers and sheriffs, as well as prosecutors; increasing pay for Firefighters/EMS and 911 Dispatchers, plus building another fire station. Council is even implementing a pay progression plan for the Fire Department to strategically address retention. Altogether, our full public safety package is robust, dense, and directly addresses one of the strongest needs in our city.
I'll say it this way — our budget offers the single greatest investment into public safety and law and order in the history of Lynchburg. Full stop. Since day one, I have always been a strong advocate for public safety investment, and I always will be. Supporting this package sends a message that our local government is all in on public safety. I could not be more thrilled with this direction, and commend City Manager Wynter Benda for recognizing this need and offering these solutions for Lynchburg.
Our budget also offers a $2.8 million total increase to Lynchburg City Schools and specifically targets the classroom with this investment. Lynchburg needs a strong public education system. We can’t have that without strong teachers. For too long, educators in Lynchburg have not been a strong priority. This council is changing that narrative. We have provided the resources to place the classroom at the top of the budget, not the bottom. Now, it is on the Lynchburg City School Board to implement this “classroom first” budget, resulting in a superior education for the students of Lynchburg.
Finally, this council realizes the economy all of us are experiencing. Inflationary policies negatively impact all of us. Further, city employers must be offered competitive wages in order to stay here in Lynchburg government. For years — close to a decade in fact — previous councils failed to prioritize this critical aspect of running a city. For some time, year after year the workforce saw no increases. Our budget implements a 5% general wage increase for the entire organization. I would have preferred a targeted approach to mostly benefit frontline employees, but this is still a positive step towards ensuring the core responsibilities of government are met.
All in all, our budget offers significant relief to taxpayers, creates historic investment in public safety, prioritizes the classroom, and improves our workforce. In short, it delivers on the Republican promise made in November of 2022 that won the day. I am thankful for my four Republican colleagues, specifically, for coming together as a team and supporting the General Fund, Real Estate Tax Rate, and our education budget. There's more work to be done, but after tonight, it is clear our team is up to the task.
Finally, I do share my appreciation to all the staff, citizens, stakeholders, and my colleagues for participating in this budget process from start to finish.
It truly is an honor to serve as Lynchburg's Ward IV Representative and Vice Mayor. I look forward to continuing to serve our city and home.
Overall, the adoption of the budget for the fiscal year 2024 comprised eleven votes, with individual items ranging from the General Fund, Capital Improvement, Real Estate Rate(s), Lynchburg City Schools, etc.
Below is how Vice Mayor Faraldi voted on each item:
Lowering the Real Estate Tax Rate to $0.89 per $100 of Assessed Value: Yes
General Fund Operating Budget: Yes
Lynchburg City Schools FY24 Operating Budget by major classification: Yes
Setting the Personal Property Tax Relief Rate at 35.81% for January 1 through December 31, 2023: Yes
Prohibiting charging certain trash collection fees in the City for FY24: Yes
Prohibiting charging motor vehicle license fees in the City for FY24: Yes
Lower the business license tax rates effective January 1, 2024: Yes
$50,000 of the FY24 Reserve for Contingencies for use by the Manager: Yes
FY24 Discretional External Service Providers Budget: Yes
FY24-28 Capital Improvement Plan and Appropriation: No
Increasing Water, Sewer, and Stormwater Rates: No
In addition, just as he did last year, Vice Mayor Faraldi voted against additional increases to the Utility Bills because of the additional financial burden placed on ratepayers. He also voted against the Capital Improvement Plan, as in previous years, as that fund is where the debt of the city continues to increase.
The second reading and final adoption of these items will be at the council's second meeting of the month on May 23rd.
Chris Faraldi, a conservative Republican, is the Ward IV Representative and Vice Mayor of Lynchburg City Council.