City’s projected $15 million FY 2019 surplus to go towards cost of living increases for retirees, per proposed ordinance

City’s projected $15 million FY 2019 surplus to go towards cost of living increases for retirees, per proposed ordinance

The City of Richmond expects to end fiscal year 2019 with a $15 million surplus, the office of Mayor Levar Stoney announced this week, a windfall that is proposed to fund increases for retirees and accessibility projects in the James River Park System.

Photo: Taber Andrew Bain

The City of Richmond expects to end fiscal year 2019 with a $15 million surplus, the office of Mayor Levar Stoney announced this week, a windfall that is proposed to fund increases for retirees and accessibility projects in the James River Park System.

The mayor’s office, in a statement, attributed the surplus to “increased tax revenues above projections, improvements in tax collection, and savings from efficiencies in departmental operations.”

Stoney will propose an ordinance at the September 9th meeting of the Richmond City Council to dedicate $6.2 million of the surplus to fund a 1% increase in the Cost of Living Adjustment paid to city retirees – the first such increase paid to former city employees in more than a decade. The mayor is also proposing to allocate an additional $1 million of the surplus to further reduce the unfunded liability of the Richmond Retirement System (RRS).

“After years of dedicated public service, we must invest in the lives of our retirees,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m pleased that our revenues and collection rates have exceeded projections, and that the efficiencies and savings we were able to find throughout the administration will allow us to give our retirees the increase they not only need but surely deserve,” the mayor said.

Mayor Stoney is also proposing to dedicate roughly $1 million to fund Capital Improvement Program projects, including accessibility enhancements along the James River, which were cut by city council earlier this year to balance the FY20 budget.

These include:

  • $500,000 for enhancements to Community Centers, many of which have not been upgraded in years and require major renovations to meet the needs of our residents;
  • $282,558 for the Tredegar/Brown’s Island Accessibility Project, which will provide an ADA-accessible path, covering an area of approximately 3,000 feet of new walkway, including ramps across Tredegar St. near Brown’s Island to support and provide access to all visitors of the Riverfront amenities on Brown’s Island;
  • $180,000 for universal access ramps at Huguenot Flatwater. Currently, there is only one ADA compliant river access point in the middle at Reedy Creek which is primarily for whitewater access. The proposed universal access ramp at Huguenot Flatwater will change that by connecting the upper 4 miles of James River with ADA compliant access points at both ends.

“With this surplus, we can begin to restore some of the funding that was cut from the adopted budget to fund much-needed capital improvements, which are crucial to ensuring our city is welcoming and inclusive of all its residents and provides access to one of our greatest assets – the river and riverfront areas,” the mayor said.

The Mayor also announced that collections of the city’s 1.5% addition to the meals tax is expected to exceed projections, with the city projected to collect roughly $9.3 million, above its projection of $9.1 million. Approved last year, the meals tax increase is solely dedicated to the funding for construction of Richmond Public Schools facilities, three of which are under construction: George Mason Elementary School, E.S.H. Greene Elementary School, and a replacement for Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School.

“I’m very encouraged by our projected meals tax revenue increases,” said Mayor Stoney. “Not only do they prove that this was a sound approach to finance school facilities that are sorely needed today, but it also demonstrates that both Richmond residents and diners outside of the city alike are more than willing to put their money where their mouths are and invest in our kids. I’m grateful to them and to the great restaurant owners in our city for adding yet more value to Richmond’s dining experience.”

City officials identified several factors behind the projected surplus, including a projected savings of $6.6 million in operating efficiencies from the departments of city government and an increase in the Finance Department’s collection of real estate and personal property tax levies beyond what was previously projected.

A strong local economy in the fourth quarter produced increased revenues in such categories as sales taxes and lodging taxes, and concerted revenue administration efforts from delinquent collections, business audits, and tax enforcement also led to enhanced revenues.

In addition to the funding priorities identified by the mayor, 50% of the remaining surplus, per city council ordinance, would go to “rainy day” funds, which includes the unassigned balance and the Budget and Revenue Stabilization Contingency Reserve; 40% would go to the Capital Maintenance Reserve, and the remaining 10% would go to special purpose reserves.

Comments

comments