Mayor Stoney Proposes $782M Budget With New Money For Schools, Roads
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is asking for new investments in roads and schools as part of the proposed 2020 budget he presented to City Council Friday.
Stoney’s $782.6 million budget includes more than $32 million for road repaving and constructing new sidewalks. That is funded in part by state legislation creating the Central Virginia Transportation Authority and increasing taxes on gasoline in the region. The budget also includes $16 million in additional funding for Richmond Public Schools.
Stoney said his 2020 budget is focused on four pillars: education, housing, transportation and economic development.
“We can be better tomorrow than we are today,” Stoney said. “We can educate our students and support our communities. We can create opportunities for economic mobility. We can build an inclusive and competitive city.”
On the issue of affordable housing, Stoney’s proposal includes an additional $3.5 million for the city’s affordable housing trust fund and budget increases of more than 40 percent for the Eviction Diversion Program.
He also proposed giving the Richmond Public Defender’s Office $350,000 as part of a three-year plan for achieving pay parity. Public defenders have been lobbying his office for pay parity since last year.
City employees and teachers can also expect to see a pay raise under the proposed budget.
The city’s 2020 budget is roughly $25 million more than the previous year, something Stoney attributes to a 7.4 percent increase in property values and an increase in the tax collection rate from 94.4 percent to 97.4 percent.
“There have been significant efforts to put our city’s financial house in order,” he said.
Richmond City Council will now spend the coming months debating the proposed budget and offering amendments. Last year, council members rejected Stoney’s proposed property tax rate increase of 7.5 percent, saying Richmond’s homeowners were already overburdened.
This year - an election year - Stoney’s proposed budget has no new taxes associated with it. It does, however, have an increase in utility rates that Stoney said will result in an increase of $5.56 per month for the average customer.
Second District Councilwoman Kim Gray, who recently announced she will run against Stoney for mayor in November, said she was concerned the hike in utility rates could impact residents on fixed incomes.
“It appears that each year they are proposing what they call ‘modest increases,’ but they are compounding,” Gray said. “I think it’s making living in the city more and more unaffordable.”
In addition to the budget, Stoney said he will submit a package of new legislation aimed at zoning changes that would allow nonprofits to better address the needs of the homeless community.