Members of the Richmond City Council have submitted approximately $50 million in budget amendment requests as the city’s governing body prepares to pass a spending plan for the next fiscal year.
On Monday, the council reviewed lists of 72 potential changes the nine members have requested for the city’s general fund and capital improvement program budgets for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Council officials currently estimate that there could be around $2.7 million more real estate tax revenue than what was originally projected in the spending plan Mayor Levar Stoney introduced last month. Council is still waiting for the assessor to certify the real estate tax revenue projections. In recent years it has increased toward the end of the budget process, and usually goes up a few million dollars.
With virtually no spending cuts proposed, though, there’s little room to add more expenditures.
The proposed spending increases include:
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- $6.2 million to grant a 1% cost-of-living-adjustment for retired city employees’ pensions
- $3.5 million more to subsidize the Richmond Ambulance Authority
- $1 million for portable rental subsidies
- $1 million to maintain GRTC’s zero-fare policy for passengers
- $500,000 for gun violence prevention efforts targeted at the George Wythe High School and Belt Atlantic Apartments communities
- $300,000 for a new mobile home rehabilitation and repair program
- $120,000 for Spanish language translation services for council announcements and handouts.
The council briefly reviewed the proposed amendments to the capital budget for next year, but records show additions totaling $11.2 million, including:
- $2 million for a new “green planning” fund for potential energy-efficiency upgrades and projects to mitigate the city’s greenhouse gas emissions
- $1.5 million for sidewalk repair and traffic improvements in Scott’s Addition
- $1 million for repairs and maintenance on historic cobblestone and brick-paved streets
- $500,000 for sidewalk repairs in the Bellemeade neighborhood
Stoney’s original budget proposal calls for increasing the city’s annual spending by $63.2 million, or 8.2%, over the city’s budget for this year while maintaining the city’s real estate tax rate level at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value.
All sworn public safety officials will receive a wage increase of at least 10% in the budget. The plan also includes 5% raises for all non-sworn employees and $15 million in additional funding for Richmond Public Schools — which falls $1 million short of the School Board’s budget request of the city.
The council was slow to begin deliberations Monday.
Toward the start of the meeting, Councilman Michael Jones said he felt staff members were simply reading the requests to the council, leaving little time for the council to deliberate over what to add or remove just a few weeks before the council is scheduled to finish the budget in accordance with local and state codes.
Council President Cynthia Newbille, however, defended the process, saying that the council and city administration needs more time to review the amendment requests before they expect negotiations to begin in earnest.
“The goal here is to go through all of what’s been submitted ... and then if we have an opportunity to identify any duplicate [amendments] and ask major questions,” Council President Cynthia Newbille said. “Then we can review.”
While a budget work session is scheduled for Wednesday, administration officials said they were unsure if they could answer questions about the amendments and updated revenue projections by then. The council tentatively moved the meeting to Friday.
Council members said they feel the process will be rushed after many of them saw the summary of the amendments for the first time Monday, just five days before the council must resolve any proposed changes to the general fund in order to adopt the budget as planned on May 2.
“That means that we’re going to be having a pretty robust conversation on Friday in order to finalize everything, as it’s our drop-dead date,” said Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “I just want to make sure that we’re clear on that.”