Public weighs in on Mayor Stoney’s controversial budget proposal

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond residents sounded off on proposals to raise the cigarette and property tax rates in the city. 

Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed a $758 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Richmond City Council met Monday night at a public hearing.

Stoney wants to increase the city’s real estate tax from $1.20 to $1.29 for $100 of assessed value, and add a 50 cent tax on cigarettes. 

The mayor says these taxes would go towards improving city schools and roads. 

The city will also look to appropriate and provide funds for financing the school budget for the next fiscal year. 

Richmonders who spoke at tonight’s meeting were encouraged to sign up, though the forum was open to the public.

Residents were also encouraged to contact their respective councilmember to share their thoughts and/or concerns on the ongoing budget discussions.

“Vote your conscience and not politics,” a Richmond resident said.

That was just one of the demands from Richmond residents to city council members as they work to come to an agreement Levar Stoney’s proposed 2020 budget plan.

If approved his proposal adds up to 18.5 million dollars for Richmond Public Schools.

“We need this funding in RPS,” RPS Educator Angela Dews said. “You know yourselves it’s been way too long that we’ve been underfunded.”

RPS parents also laid out their thoughts on the proposed budget.

“Approve the mayor’s budget..the time is NOW,” Teresa Kennedy said. “I am tired of hearing reasons why you don’t support the budget. I’m tired of hearing complaints and criticisms.”

Criticism over the nine cent increase in real-estate taxes per 100 dollars of asset value and a 50-cents per pack on cigarettes.

Those who opposed the taxes wore red shirts reading, “no more taxes” at the council meeting.

Phillip Morris an American multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, whose headquarters are in Richmond, was also in attendance.

“A cigarette tax is just not the right approach. It would require the council to keep searching for more funds when this can’t deliver expected results,” Reagan Scott of Philip Morris said.

Scott added that if the tax is implemented it would drive customers out of the city and into local counties to buy cigarettes.

The council will meet again on Wednesday to work out 12 pages of budget amendments. Council members are hoping to have a balanced budget by then.

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