Old municipal building and a new fire engine are among the big-ticket items in next year’s city budget

The limestone building of the old Harrisonburg High School was built in 1908, formerly the Municipal Building on South Main Street. (File photo)

By Rachel Petterson, contributor

Harrisonburg will see renovations to the old municipal building, the purchase of a new fire engine at Station 4 on Rock Street and increased compensation for city employees as part of the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget, which will go into effect July 1. 

The budget also will include the final tax increase to cover the construction of Rocktown High School. This coming year, the property taxes will go up by 3 cents for every $100 of property value. This means the total real estate tax will become 96 cents per $100. 

With the average home in Harrisonburg valued at about $230,000, a 3-cent increase would raise the property taxes on the average house by $69 per year, with the total average property tax bill now being $2,208. This is the final of three planned tax increases to cover the construction of Rocktown High school, which is expected to cost about $100 million and is on pace to open in fall 2024. 

Another long-awaited construction project made it into this budget after years of discussions. 

The old municipal building, which is attached to the current municipal building, is currently in such disrepair that it is unusable. The 2023-’24 budget allotted $5 million to go toward renovations that would make the building safe and useful again. 

“The old municipal building is where old City Hall used to be,” said Michael Parks, the city’s director of communications. 

While the $5 million will not cover the entire costs of renovating it, it will “allow us to begin moving forward,” Parks said. Renovations will make room for more space as the city brings on more staff members. Along with raises and fairer compensation for city employees, the budget also includes a handful of new city positions. 

The city council unanimously approved the budget at Tuesday’s meeting following initial discussion on April 11 and public hearing April 25. City council members had consistently signaled their contentment with the budget and offered no changes since the initial discussions. An overview of the proposed budget can be found here and the full budget can be found here

Council member Dany Fleming was not present for Tuesday’s vote, and the budget is slated for its second and final vote of approval at the next city council meeting May 23, at which point Fleming will have the chance to address any lingering concerns or questions. 

The council also might have to make adjustments if the state gives more money to the city and local public schools once the General Assembly approves the state budget. For example, if the state provides more money to Harrisonburg City Public Schools, that could replace a portion of the city’s funding for schools. 

Council member Chris Jones voted in favor of the budget with the understanding that if the schools get that money from the state instead, that the city will retain those funds. 

Superintendent Michael Richards is set to attend the May 23 council meeting to address questions the council may have before final approval.

Community block grant funding divvied up

The council approved splitting up nearly $570,000 in Community Development Block Grants among four organizations, as well as expansion of the Ralph Sampson Park Futsal Court and other city and HRHA administrative costs. 

The City of Harrisonburg receives federal funding annually through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. 

“The CDBG funds must be used for activities that benefit low and moderate income persons,” said Kristin McComb, the city’s CDBG program coordinator. Each funded activity must go toward that goal in ways that fit the requirements of the grant, she said. 

This year, the city has $569,946 to spend. A maximum of 15% of the funding can go toward public services, such as charitable organizations. The city gave a combined $76,041 to The Arc SpArc, CASA, IIHHS Suitcase Clinic, and VPAS Meals on Wheels, which are four of the seven organizations that applied for a portion of the funding. 

The slide at the May 9 city council meeting shows the options for funding through the Community Development Block Grants and which items the council chose to fund.
This slide from the city shows which groups requested block grants and which the council selected.

Upcoming events

The following are upcoming in Harrisonburg: 

  • Harrisonburg Economic Development, among other sponsors, will host Valley TechCon.23  on May 25 Hotel Madison — a conference that focuses on technology use in the business world. 
  • There will be a health screening clinic from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. May 20 at Sims School. Sentara RMH Medical Center, Mayor Deanna Reed and supporting organizations will participate in the clinic, which offers mammograms, diabetes screenings, oral and colon cancer screenings, nutrition services, wound screenings and blood pressure measurements. The event is open to the public. 

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