Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mayor Stoney announces projected $15 million surplus to close FY 2019


Mayor to submit an ordinance to council proposing $6.2 million for Cost of Living Increase for Richmond retirees, the first in a decade

Mayor also proposes $1 million in investments for community centers and two ADA accessibility projects to improve access to the James River and riverfront parks

Thanks to increased tax revenues above projections, improvements in tax collection, and savings from efficiencies in departmental operations, the City of Richmond is projected to end Fiscal Year 2019 with an estimated $15 million surplus.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced he will propose an ordinance at the September 9th meeting of the Richmond City Council to dedicate $6.2 million of the surplus to fund a 1% increase in the Cost of Living Adjustment paid to city retirees – the first such increase paid to former city employees in more than a decade.

The proposal makes good on the mayor’s commitment to use budgeted surplus funds to provide a retirement boost to city retirees, which, due to a lack of resources during the budget process, was not included in the FY2020 Proposed or Adopted Budget.

The mayor is also proposing to allocate an additional $1 million of the surplus to further reduce the unfunded liability of the Richmond Retirement System (RRS).

“After years of dedicated public service, we must invest in the lives of our retirees,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m pleased that our revenues and collection rates have exceeded projections, and that the efficiencies and savings we were able to find throughout the administration will allow us to give our retirees the increase they not only need but surely deserve,” the mayor said.

Mayor Stoney is also proposing to dedicate roughly $1 million to fund Capital Improvement Program projects, including accessibility enhancements along the James River, which were cut by city council earlier this year to balance the FY20 budget. 

These include: 

  • $500,000 for enhancements to Community Centers, many of which have not been upgraded in years and require major renovations to meet the needs of our residents;

  • $282,558 for the Tredegar/Brown’s Island Accessibility Project, which will provide an ADA-accessible path, covering an area of approximately 3,000 feet of new walkway, including ramps across Tredegar St. near Brown’s Island to support and provide access to ALL visitors of the Riverfront amenities on Brown’s Island;

  • $180,000 for universal access ramps at Huguenot Flatwater. Currently, there is only one ADA compliant river access point in the middle at Reedy Creek which is primarily for whitewater access. The proposed universal access ramp at Huguenot Flatwater will change that by connecting the upper 4 miles of James River with ADA compliant access points at both ends.
“With this surplus, we can begin to restore some of the funding that was cut from the adopted budget to fund much-needed capital improvements, which are crucial to ensuring our city is welcoming and inclusive of all its residents and provides access to one of our greatest assets – the river and riverfront areas,” the mayor said.

The Mayor also announced that collections of the city’s 1.5% addition to the meals tax is expected to exceed projections, with the city projected to collect roughly $9.3 million, above its projection of $9.1 million. Approved last year, the meals tax increase is solely dedicated to the funding for construction of Richmond Public Schools facilities, three of which are under construction: George Mason Elementary School, E.S.H. Greene Elementary School, and a replacement for Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School.   

“I’m very encouraged by our projected meals tax revenue increases,” said Mayor Stoney. “Not only do they prove that this was a sound approach to finance school facilities that are sorely needed today, but it also demonstrates that both Richmond residents and diners outside of the city alike are more than willing to put their money where their mouths are and invest in our kids. I’m grateful to them and to the great restaurant owners in our city for adding yet more value to Richmond’s dining experience.”

City officials identified several factors behind the projected surplus, including a projected savings of $6.6 million in operating efficiencies from the departments of city government and an increase in the Finance Department’s collection of real estate and personal property tax levies beyond what was previously projected.

A strong local economy in the fourth quarter produced increased revenues in such categories as sales taxes and lodging taxes, and concerted revenue administration efforts from delinquent collections, business audits, and tax enforcement also led to enhanced revenues.

In addition to the funding priorities identified by the mayor, 50% of the remaining surplus, per city council ordinance, would go to "rainy day" funds, which includes the unassigned balance and the Budget and Revenue Stabilization Contingency Reserve; 40% would go to the Capital Maintenance Reserve, and the remaining 10% would go to special purpose reserves.

The mayor’s announcement today drew support from a variety of city stakeholder, including retirees, environmental and accessibility advocates, as well as the nonprofit community.

Glenwood Burley, Retired Richmond Police Officer – “Today is a milestone moment for retirees. For decades, we have been in need of a cost of living increase. Mayor Stoney has been bold with this, he’s been committed to it, the administration has been supportive of it, so it’s a great day for all the retirees in the City of Richmond.”

Daisy Weaver, Former Richmond City Council Chief of Staff – “Mayor Stoney has kept his promise. Retirees are very mindful of the competing needs, priorities, and challenges facing the city. We are very much aware of today’s unpredictable financial climate. We’re especially grateful that consideration was still given to retirees. We ask City Council to support the mayor in this proposal.”

Keith Andes, President of the Richmond Fire Association – “This is a great day for the City of Richmond, for the city workforce, and for the city retirees.”

Sally Wetzler, Board Member, James River Outdoor Coalition – “The James River Outdoor Coalition has been working with the parks system to go ahead and get an accessible ramp put in. Right now, we’re lacking good access. We’re ready to get going, and I just wanted to say thank you very much.”

Chris Frelke, Director, Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities – “Just spending about 20 minutes outside improves the quality of life of individuals in our community. Today we take a huge step forward to give our community the ability to get outside for 20 minutes and enjoy it.”

Lisa Sims, CEO, Venture Richmond – “The area around Tredegar and Brown’s Island sees well over a million visitors each year. We could not be more pleased today that the mayor is recommending surplus funds be used to provide safe access to our downtown riverfront.”

Justin Doyle, Community Conservation Manager, James River Association – “I want to thank Mayor Stoney and his administration for their commitment to funding the Huguenot Flatwater Accessibility Project and Tredegar Street Accessibility Project. On behalf of the James River Association and a coalition of organizations that have been advocating for these projects, thank you very much Mayor Stoney.” 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Statement by Mayor Levar M. Stoney on Virginia Crime Commission Hearings


"The Virginia General Assembly already has all the evidence it needs to reach the conclusion most Virginians reached years ago. We need action on commonsense gun safety laws, not more deliberation by the Virginia Crime Commission.

The epidemic of gun violence and the role Virginia's lax laws play in the proliferation of and access to firearms by those who should not have them will continue unabated until our lawmakers make the commitment to act on behalf of their constituents -- not the gun lobby -- and propose commonsense laws to protect the people they were elected to serve.

In the City of Richmond, 40 people have been shot and six killed since the day the Republican leadership in the General Assembly turned a special session called by the governor after the tragedy in Virginia Beach into a dismissive charade, spending all of 90 minutes before adjourning without discussing one of the 60 gun violence reform bills before them. Instead, they punted the issue to the Virginia Crime Commission to hold two days of hearings and then not convene again until after the November elections.

Further discussion is delay, and delay means another day that our residents, law enforcement and local elected leaders do not have the basic protections they need to keep our communities safe. Universal background checks, allowing localities to ban firearms from public places and imposing penalties for failing to report stolen firearms are simple steps supported by a majority of Virginians. Most importantly, they will save lives.

We owe it to all of those families and communities who have been traumatized by gun violence to do everything we can to keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them and away from places where children play and citizens conduct business. Let's hope the Commission's efforts are not another Republican charade, and that lawmakers will finally have the spine to implement these commonsense gun control laws.  Actions speak louder than words. Every Richmonder and every Virginian deserves to feel safe."

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Administration formally introduces legislation for Navy Hill Project

The city administration today formally introduced ordinances memorializing the proposed negotiated agreement with the Navy Hill Development Corporation to revitalize downtown Richmond, create economic opportunity, and provide necessary funding for the city’s priorities, including education, housing, and neighborhoods. Also introduced was a resolution outlining the Mayor’s funding priorities for the estimated $1 billion in surplus revenue to be generated by the proposed project.

The legislation, which will be officially posted to the Richmond City Clerk’s Legistar page, can also be found at the following link on the city website:


The documents being released today include the following:
·      The ordinance binder package, which includes the legal documents, the OR Request, and the Fiscal Impact Statement
·      The Original Proposal from NHDC
·      The NHDC Response to Request for Clarifications

The previously posted City of Richmond Request for Proposal (RFP) and other related previously published documents may also be found on the city’s website.
 
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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Stoney administration to submit ordinances for Navy Hill development plan to Richmond City Council on Monday

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced that the city administration has completed negotiations with The NH District Corporation (NHDC) on a transformational, economic development plan to revitalize downtown Richmond and dramatically increase the city’s capacity to fund education, housing, transit, streets and neighborhoods for generations to come.

The plan, subject to the approval of Richmond City Council, will be submitted in the form of ordinances and supporting legal documents introduced at a special meeting of the council to be held on Monday, August 5.

“The ordinances we will deliver to the city council on Monday propose a responsible and inclusive opportunity to grow our economy by creating a thriving city center and community,” said Mayor Stoney.

“The agreement we have negotiated ensures that the Navy Hill development project will create thousands of jobs, hundreds of affordable housing units, job-training opportunities, new revenue, and world-class amenities for ALL Richmonders,” the mayor added.

The proposed project will redevelop significant portions of Richmond’s under-utilized property downtown, turning valuable land that costs the city money today into properties that generate revenue tomorrow. 

The $1.5 billion project is expected to generate $500 million in annual wages in the region, in addition to an estimated $1 billion in surplus revenue to the city over 30 years for priorities such as education, housing, streets and the arts.


Highlights of the negotiated proposal include:
·      12,500 jobs in construction and 9,300 permanent jobs
·      480 affordable housing units, with a pathway to hundreds more
·      $300 million in minority business participation, largest in city history
·      New GRTC bus transit center
·      Renovated historic Blues Armory
·      New arena to replace the Richmond Coliseum
·      New 525+-room Hyatt Regency hotel

“This project is not only the largest economic development project in the city’s history, but also the largest economic empowerment project in our city’s history,” the mayor said. 

“The overarching goal for this proposal is to significantly improve the quality of life for all Richmond residents.”

Under the proposed agreement, the Department of Social Services will stay in its current location until a future home can be found downtown. If another home cannot be found for DSS, the city will be under no obligation to move from its existing facility at Marshall Plaza.

Thursday’s announcement follows 17 months of intensive negotiations between the city and Richmond-based community leaders of the nonprofit NH Foundation on behalf of NHDC, working with the developer, Capital City Partners (CCP).

As negotiated, the agreement accomplishes the city’s goals without utilizing debt capacity, and without taking any existing tax money away from our schools or services. It does so without raising taxes, and without any subsidies or handouts for the developers of this project.

“During this time, we worked hard to memorialize in legal documents unprecedented protections for the city to ensure this project will be a safe and responsible investment for Richmond without leaving the City or taxpayers on the hook,” said Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the lead negotiator of the city’s team. “As the mayor has said, we’ve dotted the “i’s” and crossed the “t’s,” and the language in the ordinances will make sure that what we have agreed will happen, does happen.”

The public process now begins in earnest.  Leaders of NHDC and CCP have committed to a series of public outreach and engagement opportunities with city residents in the coming weeks in addition to participating in the legislative process with city council and the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission it formed to evaluate the proposal over the next 90 days.

“NH District Corporation’s goal is to help create a diverse downtown neighborhood that welcomes everyone,” said Dr. Monroe Harris, NH Foundation Board member. “Lots of people have worked hard to shape this plan, and we are excited to share the full detail of the project next week.

“We look forward to hearing the community’s feedback and to working with neighborhoods, Richmond residents, and the city council to shape the downtown we all deserve for the city we love.”

NHDC has also set up a website to share information and answer questions about the project, which can be accessed here.


Upon formal introduction of the ordinances on Monday, the original proposal submitted by NHDC, the request for clarifications document and the ordinances themselves will all be posted on the city’s website and accessible to everyone. The city’s original Request for Proposal and previously released public documents on the project can also be found here.   

“Now is the time for the public to see for themselves how this will benefit all Richmonders, and for the members of City Council to begin their review,” said Mayor Stoney.

“I fully support City Council taking the time it needs to review this project, and I also encourage the public to engage and ask questions of the developer, which is ready and excited to share the details of this project. Everyone will have the chance to kick the tires, as we have.”

News of the project moving forward was welcomed by local elected and area leaders.

“Richmond Region Tourism is thrilled with today’s announcement,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “This is a game changer for our destination. This will put our convention and tourism industry on a larger national platform.” 

Sheryl Adams, Interim CEO of GRTC, said the development and the new GRTC Transit Center it will build will enhance the customer service experience for the city’s mass transit riders.

“We look forward to a permanent transit facility Downtown for our customers and employees to provide safe, sheltered and convenient connections between buses,” she said.

“This project is an opportunity for our city to take another very big step in the right direction of inclusivity, equity and opportunity -- one I believe can have a positive and transformative impact on Richmonders today, tomorrow and for years to come,” said Mayor Stoney.

For additional background and answers to frequently asked questions, see the attached document: http://www.richmondgov.com/PressSecretaryMayor/robocopy/documents/Navy_Hill_Background_Attachment.pdf

For more information, please visit: http://www.richmondgov.com/Mayor/downtown.aspx

For information on Navy Hill, contact: Jeff Kelley, (804) 397-9700 or visit www.navyhillrva.com 

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Richmond ranks fourth nationally in economic growth potential of mid-sized cities


The Metro Rankings Report published by Business Facilities Magazine ranks the City of Richmond and its metro area fourth in economic growth potential for mid-sized cities, second in corporate leadership, and seventh in attracting millennials.

The report, conducted annually by the staff of Business Facilities, ranks metro areas on a series of relevant economic development indicators ranging from gross domestic product and cost of living to startup viability and “Millennial magnet” status.

The Richmond region’s top 10 rankings in three categories come on the heels of an announcement that Amazon will locate a new fulfillment center in South Richmond creating 150 jobs and news that Richmond-based CoStar would add 100 additional jobs to the city.

“This acknowledgment from Business Facilities Magazine recognizes Richmond’s strong potential for economic growth, an energized corporate climate, and the desirability of our reliable and diverse job market,” said Mayor Stoney.

“Every day, we work to make sure Richmond is not just a top 10 place to visit, but a top-ten place to live, work, and play,” said Mayor Stoney. “These high rankings underscore our commitment to achieving that goal through responsible economic growth.”

Leonard Sledge, the City of Richmond’s Director of Economic Development, said Richmond is moving in the right direction. “Our city and our metro area’s high rankings in these core categories bode well for Richmond’s growth trajectory. These rankings present an opportunity to learn from the innovative practices of higher-ranked cities and continually improve.”


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Monday, July 22, 2019

Mayor Stoney announces new Commissioner of Buildings



Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced the appointment of Jason Carangelo as Commissioner of Buildings for the City of Richmond.

A registered architect and LEED accredited professional, Carangelo brings 20 years of professional experience to Richmond. In his previous position, Carangelo served as the building inspections administrator for the City of Savannah’s Development Services Department, managing a building construction investment portfolio of over $4 billion.

In his new role, Carangelo will oversee administration of the city’s Permitting and Inspections Division as well as the Division of Code Enforcement. Over the last two years, the city’s Permitting and Inspections Division has experienced a 100% increase in permit applications, illustrating the substantial development interest and investment in the city.  The new commissioner will now report directly to Sharon Ebert, DCAO for Economic and Community Development, reflecting the commitment to focus on the growing demands of the division.

“As Richmond continues its explosive growth, it’s important this department meets the challenge to ensure permitting, plan review, building and code enforcement inspections are performed in a timely and efficient manner,” said Mayor Stoney. “Jason’s experience in private and public permitting and code enforcement makes him the right person to take on this challenge.”

Carangelo obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2014, he served as the president of the Savannah Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens and business community of Richmond by fostering effective and efficient building and code enforcement programs,” says Carangelo.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mayor Stoney recognizes Richmond’s YMCA Power Scholars on Summer Learning Day


Mayor Stoney celebrated National Summer Learning Week by spotlighting the Richmond Public Schools’ first class of YMCA Power Scholars and proclaiming July 11, 2019 as Summer Learning Day in the City of Richmond.

The nationally-implemented Power Scholars Academy, provided by the YMCA of Greater Richmond with curriculum designed by BellXcel, augments traditional summer school with academic enrichment, field trips, mentorship, and family engagement activities. 

Over 2,500 students across Virginia will participate in Power Scholars Academy this summer. This summer, all RPS elementary and middle summer school sites are participating in Power Scholars Academy. Richmond’s program is the largest site in the nation with over 1,000 students currently enrolled.

“With so many of our RPS scholars enrolled, Richmond is leading the way in summer learning,” said Mayor Stoney. “We have willing and able partners in the city; this is what happens when we bring them together.” 

Mayor Stoney was joined at Broad Rock Elementary School by RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras; Dr. Lauren Gilbert, CEO of BellXcel; Tim Joyce, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Richmond; Turner Thompson, Regional Market Manager for Walmart; and Dr. Jamelle S. Wilson, Dean of the School of Professional & Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond and chair of the Community Foundation’s Board of Governors’ Community Impact Committee.

The Power Scholars Academy combines a number of best-practice elements to meaningfully engage with students and beat the “summer slump.” For at least six hours a day, five days a week, the Scholars will learn on- and off-site. The extended day model both allows parents to work later into the afternoon and provides ample time for extracurricular enrichment activities.

“The Y is committed to equity in learning in all of our communities, and the Power Scholars program is one way that we can partner with school systems to ensure our students are not experiencing summer learning loss.  We are excited to extend this partnership to the entire Richmond Public School system and continue our service to kids and families,” said YMCA CEO and President Tim Joyce.

Local partners including Art180, the Science Museum, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, the University of Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth University have ensured that Richmond’s own Power Scholars will enjoy field trips to experience the rich offerings in the metro area.

“Our students deserve access to rigorous and exciting opportunities all year long,” said Superintendent Jason Kamras. “We are grateful for our continued partnership with YMCA and the Community Foundation, as well as our new partnership with Walmart. We also thank the Mayor for his leadership in prioritizing high-quality out-of-school time options for our students that will ignite a love of learning through the summer and beyond.”

Because summer learning loss is a significant contributor to the achievement gap, the partners sought out an evidence-based program with tested curriculum. Power Scholars Academy’s curriculum, designed by BellXcel, aligns with the Virginia Standards of Learning while incorporating social-emotional learning. Past participants have shown significant, measurable growth in literacy and math skills. The use of the BellXcel curriculum was made possible by a generous contribution from Walmart. 

"Walmart is excited to support Richmond Public Schools and the YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy program this summer for kids in our community,” said Turner Thompson, Walmart’s Richmond Market Manager. “By supporting the highly innovative and effective BellXcel curriculum, we are confident the participating students will engage in a highly productive and meaningful summer experience."

Summer learning is a component of Mayor Stoney’s out-of-school time initiative, which convenes key community partners like the YMCA, the Community Foundation, Richmond Public Schools, and the Mayor’s Office with the goal of providing high-quality activities and programming outside of the traditional school day.

“This collaboration to enrich summer school is one more step towards giving our kids the opportunities they need and deserve year-round, both in and out of school,” said Mayor Stoney. “We look forward to continuing to deepen and expand access to activities like these for all of Richmond’s children.”


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