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Portsmouth City Jail relocation, personal property tax relief among ideas in FY24 budget proposal

City staff released the budget proposal this week.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth's proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget includes a 5% wage increase for full and part-time city employees, effective July 8, 2023. 

The city’s $834 million budget proposal also suggests a one-time, 50% tax relief for personal property, like vehicles. That's up 5% from last year. 

The budget does not propose any changes to the real property tax rates. It cites Portsmouth having the highest percentage of tax-exempt property in the state (41%) as a factor in the decision.  

The plan also includes a $64 million allocation for Portsmouth Public Schools. But it could also mean future changes for the Portsmouth City Jail.

The city's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) includes the possibility of $56 million over the next few years to build a new, 250-bed jail to replace the decades-old, waterfront facility.   

A city spokesperson told 13News Now, as part of the 2024 budget, city staff wants to conduct a study to help them create a plan for the next steps.

In 2019, the Portsmouth City Jail became the subject of a multi-year legal battle between the city and the sheriff over whether to keep inmates there or at Hampton Roads Regional Jail.

Sheriff Michael Moore said he is an advocate for the new facility and said the current facility, which dates back to 1969, is “well-built” but past its prime.

“The longer we wait, the longer we delay, the more we run the risk of running into some major issues down the road,” said Moore. 

Moore said he appreciates the efforts to look into a new facility and claims it will be cheaper to build new than to renovate the current, 8-story building.

“Because really, renovating is out of the question," said Moore. 

The state can reimburse the city up to 25% of what it costs to design and build a new jail. Moore said there are ideas to construct on land adjacent to the Portsmouth Judicial Center on Court Street. Moore said the proximity would also ease transporting inmates to and from the courthouse. 

If approved and built, the new jail could incorporate other services, including the sheriff's office's training facilities and possibly, the Magistrate's office, said Moore. 

Important to him, it would provide an opportunity to bolster the agency's programs aimed at reducing recidivism. The agency launched re-entry program four years ago, but jail staff has had to house services at a city compound, which has been used as a secondary location for the jail.  

“We want to make sure that the people that we are entrusted to care for while they are incarcerated are well taken care of, and that often requires an updated facility," Moore said. 

A city spokesperson said the jail has been part of the Capital Improvement Plan since 2008.

“I think it will be a worthwhile investment if it comes with the rehabilitation piece that I know that Sheriff Moore is focused on,” said Portsmouth NAACP president James Boyd. 

Boyd, too, would support a new facility. He said his team is still combing through the proposed budget and is hopeful to find more investment in community support services and programs. 

There will be a public hearing for the city’s proposed budget on April 11 and April 25. 

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