Mayor Levar Stoney unveiled a fiscal year 2020 budget proposal on Wednesday, outlining investments to meet needs in public education and neighborhoods, and increasing the city’s real estate tax by 9 cents. A cigarette tax rate hike to 50 cents was also introduced.
The fully balanced budget proposal presented to Richmond City Council provides an additional $18.5 million to fully fund the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) strategic plan, Dreams4RPS, which includes the local match for recently passed state salary increases for teachers. The city’s Capital Improvement Program budget also fully funds eligible RPS maintenance needs of $19 million. A recently-announced reduction in force at RPS’s central office will also help the city meet its school budgeting needs.
“This budget marks a new beginning,” Mayor Stoney stated. “With [it], we have the opportunity to invest in our children, our families, and our neighborhoods to build the Richmond our residents deserve.”
“There is no investment more important, or worthwhile, than the investment we make in our children,” said Mayor Stoney, addressing the nine members of council in council chambers. “Their future is our future.”
The mayor’s budget also provides an investment of $16.2 million toward streets and sidewalks.
“From Church Hill to Westhampton, from Worthington Farms to Providence Park, these investments will allow us to support our neighborhoods in an equitable and sustainable way, not just this year, but every year,” the mayor said.
The proposed real estate tax hike would effectively make the city’s assessment rate $1.29 per $100 of assessed value.
In addition to new investments in schools and streets, the mayor’s budget also includes funding for the following:
- $2.9 million dedicated to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
- An additional $965,000 to the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation for increased service and route frequency to those communities that need it the most
- $485,000 for Richmond’s Eviction Diversion Program, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia
- Additional staffing for the Department of Citizen Service and Response and RVA311, to reduce wait times and provide a higher level of customer service to residents
- Continuation of planned step pay increases for police and firefighters, a raise in starting salaries for police officers to $43,000 and a cost of living adjustment for general city employees of 3 percent – the first increase of its kind in 15 years
The Capital Improvement Program budget of $96.9 million for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins July 1, makes a number of investments in city infrastructure, including:
- $10 million to restore bridges and thoroughfares and for pedestrian traffic safety initiatives that reduce accidents and save lives through the Vision Zero program
- Renovations to Powhatan and Southside Community Centers, and upgrades to Blackwell Playground and Chimborazo Park to enhance programming for youth and senior citizens
- Full funding for RPS maintenance needs