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Mayor Levar Stoney releases proposed FY22 city budget

Despite municipal revenues projected to be nearly $18.5 million less than revenues in last year’s FY21 proposed budget, the $770.3 million proposal is balanced, with expenses in line with current revenue projections.

Trevor Dickerson

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On Friday, Mayor Levar M. Stoney and administration leadership presented the proposed FY22 budget to Richmond City Council. Despite municipal revenues projected to be nearly $18.5 million less than revenues in last year’s FY21 proposed budget (when excluding one-time funding sources from both fiscal years), the $770.3 million proposal is balanced, with expenses in line with current revenue projections.

“The difficult decisions we had to make reflect the extraordinarily challenging economic times we’re in, and while this budget is limited in its ability to provide for new programming, it does protect the work we’ve started to make our city more equitable,” said Mayor Stoney. “Facing the need to do more with significantly less challenged us to look even more closely at how we can allocate the resources we have to produce better results for Richmonders.”

With proposed utility rate increases, the average customer will see a $5.27 increase in their monthly utility bill. This increase in utility rates will fund more than $3 million in infrastructure improvements to address flooding in key areas, particularly Southside.

However, the budget as proposed contains no increases in real estate, personal property or other general taxes.

The proposed Operating Budget and FY22-26 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) include the following key investments (the list is not exhaustive):

Transit, Mobility and Transportation

$8 million to the Greater Richmond Transit Company;

$33.5 million in investments in sidewalk maintenance and construction, paving, new bike lanes and bridge maintenance, and other transportation-related improvements in addition to an anticipated $16.7 million from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority;

$2.5 million specifically for new sidewalk construction (up from $900,000 in FY21) as well as an increase in the number of sidewalk crews in the Department of Public Works;

Housing Affordability and Security

$2.9 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (level-funding from last year);

$485,000 to the Eviction Diversion Program (level-funding from last year);

Equity and Community Safety

$1.1 million in operational funding to the Department of Emergency Communications to establish the Marcus Alert (as supported by community advocates and members of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety);

$28 million for the Enslaved African Heritage Campus in the FY22-26 CIP;

Funding for a Community Safety Coordinator, the city’s point person for implementing a gun-violence prevention framework, coordinating services for Richmonders experiencing homelessness and working with residents to address other community safety concerns;

Creation of the Office of Engagement under the Department of Citizen Service and Response;

Creation of the Office of Equity and Inclusion under the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services;

Children and Families

$187 million to Richmond Public Schools, fully funding the school system’s operational funding request (constitutes a $6.4 million increase when excluding RPS’ use of one-time funding in FY21);

$200 million for school modernization in FY24, including funding for a new George Wythe High School;

Good Governance

Full funding, in the FY22-26 CIP, to complete the renovation and expansion of the Southside Community Services Center;

A two-step salary increase for sworn police officers and firefighters;

An hourly wage increase for city employees making $12.07/hour to $13/hour; and

Nearly $6 million in the general fund to implement the recommendations of the Gallagher Class and Compensation Study, which found that many city employees make significantly less than their mid-range salaries compared to market rates.

In favor of implementing the recommendations of the Gallagher Class and Compensation Study, Mayor Stoney appealed to service quality and consistency: “The fact is, we will not achieve service improvement goals if we do not stabilize the attrition rate in the city workforce or if we cannot competitively recruit.”

He also shared that the creation of a pandemic-era budget resulted in the adoption of multiple municipal best practices, including increasing the transparency and accountability of the budgeting process. In the budget document, the Richmond City Council will be able to view a list of frozen and funded positions per department, tying the funded positions to specific city needs and functions. In order to balance the budget, the administration has decided to freeze an additional 150 positions, compared to last year’s budget.

The Mayor closed on a positive note, stating, “Whether times are lean or prosperous, I want you to know that I will continue to be bold and embrace the challenges before us.”

“We will take the actions required to remove barriers to opportunity and ensure our city can recover the right way.”

Interested parties will be able to learn more about the budget, read the mayor’s remarks and watch the presentation at www.rva.gov/budgethub.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.