RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would give many city employees new pay raises starting in July, $21.1 million in more funding for Richmond Public Schools and $50 million over five years for affordable housing.
Stoney called his proposal to give all non-sworn city employees an 8% salary increase “historic,” and added that he wants to raise wages for hourly-paid workers to ensure nobody employed directly by the city makes less than $18 an hour.
“We listened to our residents and we’ve restructured our government to be more effective and efficient, and gotten our fiscal house in order,” Stoney said Monday while presenting a $3 billion budget proposal for the 2023-24 fiscal year to the Richmond City Council.
But this comes at a cost, including a nearly $9 per month increase in utility costs for city residents. According to Stoney’s budget, the Department of Public Utilities is proposing rate increases for natural gas, water, wastewater and stormwater starting July 1.
The budget proposal estimates that Richmond residents will pay an extra $8.86 per month for all utilities, including $3.79 more on gas, $1.30 more on water, $3.38 more on wastewater and 39 cents more on stormwater costs.
The budget proposal from Stoney, which includes $948.9 million in the general fund, has funding for a 3% step range adjustment for all sworn officers, which he said would lead to an over 5% raise for most of Richmond’s police officers and firefighters.
Stoney’s budget proposal sets aside $50 million over the next five years in the capital improvement program budget for affordable housing.
It also calls for dedicating $1.4 million American Rescue Plan funding to establish a “first-time homebuyers’ program” for city workers who want to live in Richmond, an $800,000 funding increase for the city’s eviction diversion program and an additional $500,000 for an “alternative homes” project to allow for new homeownership options.
“We are seeing higher rents, more eviction notices, and fewer homeownership opportunities, especially for our low-income residents,” Stoney said Monday. “To address this crisis, we must look at the full spectrum of policy reforms, funding options, and housing choices to help our residents thrive. We must find a better way to address our housing crisis as quickly as possible.”
The mayor’s proposal also includes an additional $15 million in funding to help restore the damaged William Fox Elementary School, $21 million for transportation infrastructure and $1.75 million to support a year-round emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness in the city.
The $21.1 million increase in Richmond Public Schools’ operating budget equals a 10.6% increase over last year’s budget but is less than the $28.3 million the district was seeking.
This funding for the school division will help pay for the salary increases for staff that came after tentative labor agreements were approved last December.
Under Stoney’s proposal, $200 million would be dedicated to the city’s capital improvement program budget for school construction costs in the 2024 fiscal year, which starts in July and ends June 30, 2024.
The City Council will hold several public hearings on Stoney’s budget proposal and has until the end of May to pass a final spending plan.