RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney explained his plans for the 2023 budget to increase service fees but leave taxes alone, in a proposal to the Richmond City Council in a virtual meeting on Friday.
Before laying out the specifics of the budget, Stoney explained his priorities for the budget and the necessarily conservative grounding of the budget based on the uncertainties of pandemic economics.
The Mayor’s priorities included:
- High quality public education for children
- Investment in city employees
- Maintaining quality streets and city services
- Access to affordable housing
- The memorialization of the city’s history
The budget proposal totaled $836 million and, if accepted by Richmond City Council, will go into effect on July 1, 2022.
The budget proposal alleges no rate increases in real estate, personal property or other general taxes. Instead, the cots of the fiscal year will be paid for through price increases to city service fees.
Monthly parking in city-owned lots will increase by $5 and hourly parking will increase from $1.50 to $2.
The annual rate for residential gas service will increase by 4%, water service will increase by 3.5%, sewage costs will increase by 5.25% and stormwater fees will increase by 8.75%.
The municipal solid waste fee will increase from $21.45 to $22.45.
“Nobody likes paying more,” said Stoney. “But these rate increases are necessary to provide the top-notch utility services our residents expect and deserve.”
The Mayor’s next announcement was a 5% salary increase to all non-sworn city employees.
“This budget increases the wages of 151 low-wage workers,” said Stoney. “If approved, no one directly employed by the City of Richmond will make less than $17 an hour.”
The pay increases were especially applicable to police officers and firefighters with $17.4 million of the budget being allocated to making pay competitive within the region.
“95% of police officers and firefighters will receive more than a 10% salary increase, with 83% of them receiving increases of more than 15%,” said Stoney. “This plan will also raise the starting salary of Richmond police officers from $44,000 to $51,000.”
“We said we needed a new pay plan, we’re getting a new pay plan,” Richmond Coalition of Police President, Brendan Leavy, said in a statement in response to the wage increases. “We said we needed it to be fully funded and implemented July 2022 and it will as long as it passes through city council. The pay plan is not perfect and the city administration acknowledged that too so we will continue working on it so we don’t get caught in the same predicament that has currently transpired. It is a good step in the right direction.”
Assuming the budget is approved, these wage increases are expected to go into effect on July 1.
Stoney spoke about the importance of education, once again lamenting the Richmond Public Schools Board for failing to submit their budget request on time.
Citing insufficient time to review, the mayor announced that the new budget will match school funding from last year’s budget, but will not increase it. However, an additional $15 million will be available in a “Contingency for Reserve,” which will require the approval of the City Council to be withdrawn.
“These investments represent a $51 million increase — or 33% — in new funding for RPS since I took office,” Stoney claimed. “As long as I am your mayor, we will continue to put our children first.”
Stoney emphasized his plans to memorialize the city’s history with the city’s Capital Improvement Plan to include $28 million in funding for the development of the heritage campus in Shockoe Bottom.
The budget also allocates an additional $400,000 to the Black History Museum, now tasked with deciding what should be done with the Confederate monuments.
Continuing efforts towards affordable housing, the Mayor referenced his plan to dedicate another $10 million to affordable housing efforts, following the $10 million that was released in December 2010.
This funding is backed by Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act which has provided $155 million to the city in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stoney said that as these relief programs begin to expire, there could be increased housing challenges for vulnerable residents. According to Stoney, the budget has accommodated this issue by increasing funding for the Eviction Diversion Program by 50% to a total of $727,000.
$1.5 million will be allocated to Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to continue to expand the city’s after-school programming. And a new Park Ranger Pilot Program intended for training park educators and protectors will receive $250,000.
A number of transportation-related areas received increased funding as well. The Greater Richmond Transit Corporation’s annual allocation will increase by $605,000 to a total of $8.7 million. Transportation infrastructure will receive $17 million with a focus on enhancing walkability.
Long-term plans for the new budget will focus on purchasing police, fire and refuse vehicles upfront instead of on debt. And investing in local government infrastructure for a new courthouse, public safety complex and City Hall with a $10 million Capital Planning Fund.
“The City of Richmond is well-positioned to continue its upward trajectory,” Stoney concluded.