Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey delivers his 2022 State of the County address Wednesday.
Dr. Joe Casey, Chesterfield County administrator, divulged the recipe for what he called the county’s “secret sauce” for success in his seventh State of the County address Wednesday during the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce’s final monthly luncheon of 2022.
The main ingredient: Partnerships.
Dr. Casey’s presentation, which was themed “The Power of Partnerships,” highlighted Chesterfield’s collaborative accomplishments over the past year in seven specific areas: economic development, tourism and attractions, housing, human services, education, public safety and infrastructure.
“It’s not my State of the County – it’s our State of the County,” he said. “We are doing nothing but constantly trying to improve upon ourselves, be better than we were yesterday and be the best around. That wouldn’t happen without 370,000 people and thousands upon thousands of businesses.”
Dr. Casey’s speech was recorded and can be watched in its entirety on Chesterfield’s YouTube channel starting Thursday. A PDF of his presentation slides also will be posted to the county’s website.
In the interest of time, this article will briefly summarize the 2022 State of the County address. We also invite you to watch the embedded videos that were produced as part of this year’s event.
Chesterfield enjoyed a watershed year on the economic development front, landing three major projects – LEGO, Plenty and Civica – that combined will bring $1.5 billion in capital investment and more than 2,100 jobs to Meadowville Technology Park.
The addition of those companies leaves only 120 developable acres remaining at Meadowville. To position Chesterfield for future success, the Board of Supervisors rezoned the 1,700-acre Upper Magnolia West property for use as a technology village. It’s considered the most attractive site in Virginia to market to high-tech advanced manufacturers, such as semiconductor companies.
The board also rezoned the 41.9-acre Spring Rock Green shopping center, which is now owned by the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA), for a mixed-use redevelopment project with residential units, office and retail space, public facilities, a hotel, a parking deck and a sports and entertainment facility at the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Chippenham Parkway.
TOURISM AND ATTRACTIONS
Chesterfield hosted 63 sports tourism events – an increase of 24 percent over the previous 12 months – that included 253,111 attendees and generated $34.4 million in direct economic impact, as well as $1.28 million in direct local tax revenue. Participants booked 26,000-plus room nights at county hotels.
Those numbers are expected to increase as Chesterfield makes enhancements to River City Sportsplex, the 115-acre county-owned athletic facility at the intersection of Genito Road and Route 288. The recently approved 2022 bond referendum includes $17.2 million for construction of four additional turf fields (for a total of 16), additional parking, a large destination play area with a splash pad and a universal playground that can accommodate both disabled and able-bodied children, a picnic area, fitness circuit and 5k trail system. Also included will be restrooms, shade structures at the fields and other amenities for participants and spectators.
Through collaboration with nonprofit partners Project:HOMES, Better Housing Coalition and the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust, Chesterfield is working to address a shortage of quality residential units that are affordable to people with low and moderate incomes. That includes the land trust’s first permanently affordable subdivision, Ettrick Landing, which is under construction on county-owned property in the village of Ettrick.
Chesterfield also remains the fastest-growing locality in the Richmond region and among the leaders statewide for home sales. The county issued 1,017 single-family building permits and 1,849 residential certificates of occupancy between January and November 2022.
Chesterfield was selected to host Virginia’s first Recovery Academy for high school students from central Virginia who are in early stages of recovery from substance abuse disorder. Housed at the Career and Technical Center on Hull Street, the academy opened in August as a pilot program jointly administered by Chesterfield County Public Schools and the county’s Department of Mental Health Support Services.
In May, Bon Secours opened a freestanding emergency room and imaging center along Route 1 in Chester, meeting a critical need for such services in that part of the county. The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with board-certified emergency department physicians and nurses utilizing the same state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment as Bon Secours’ hospitals.
As part of this year’s budget process, the Board of Supervisors and School Board made a historic investment in compensation for teachers and other school-based employees by partnering on a new pay plan that makes Chesterfield the regional leader (among large counties) on all but the first two steps of the teacher salary scale.
In addition to $130 million previously approved for two new middle schools, one in the western Route 360 corridor to relieve capacity issues at Tomahawk Creek Middle School and another to provide a larger, modern replacement for Falling Creek Middle, the 2022 bond referendum will allocate $375 million for seven school construction projects over the next eight to 10 years.
To aid Chesterfield’s three public safety agencies in the recruitment and retention of a high-quality workforce, the Board of Supervisors approved funding to raise the starting salary for police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies by 12 percent and make corresponding adjustments to their respective pay scales to prevent salary compression.
The Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office’s groundbreaking opioid recovery program, Helping Addicts Recover Progressively (HARP), was showcased to a national audience in May as part of the Discovery + documentary series “Jailhouse Redemption.” Chester’s Perkinson Center for the Arts and Education hosted a special screening of the first episode for an audience that included a number of current and former county jail inmates who participate in HARP.
Through cooperation with other regional localities that comprise the Central Virginia Transportation Authority (CVTA), Chesterfield is receiving millions of dollars annually to tackle a variety of transportation priorities – including roadway improvements and its stretch of the Fall Line Trail, a 43-mile multimodal trail system that will run between Ashland and Petersburg.
In October, the county’s selected contractor completed the first phase of the $26.2 million Otterdale Road Drainage Improvement Project – replacement of an undersized drainage culvert with a new bridge crossing at Horsepen Creek – more than a month ahead of schedule. Work has commenced on Phase II.
Environmental stewardship continues to be a priority for Chesterfield, which is in the process of having solar panels installed on the roofs of several county and school buildings. The county’s pursuit of renewable energy projects began last year with the introduction of two electric buses in the school system’s fleet. Its transition to a privatized curbside recycling model also is motivated by the desire to have a robust, inclusive program that successfully diverts household waste from landfills and reduces costs for citizens through free market competition.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Add it all up and the local government continues to provide high-quality services at a low cost to county taxpayers. According to the 2021 Auditor of Public Accounts Virginia Comparative Cost Report, Chesterfield’s per-capita operating cost of $3,150 is the lowest among all large counties statewide.
This year’s budget incorporated more than $37 million in tax relief, including a 3-cent reduction in the real estate tax rate, increasing the percentage of personal property tax relief from 46 percent to 55 percent, raising the eligibility thresholds by 6 percent for the county’s real estate tax relief program for the elderly and disabled, and cutting the vehicle registration fee from $40 to $20.
In addition to using part of the county’s fiscal year 2022 operating surplus for additional tax relief, the Board of Supervisors is expected to advertise Chesterfield’s maximum property tax rate for 2023 at 91 cents per $100 of assessed value – thereby ensuring the rate will fall by at least a penny from its current 92 cents.