Friday, June 17, 2011

Richmond to Host Mayoral Summit on Afterschool Learning Opportunities

~Virginia is one of nine states selected nationwide to host educational expansion meetings~

Richmond, VA – Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the Virginia Partnership For Out-Of-School Time (VPOST) are proud to announce that the city of Richmond will host a Mayoral Summit to discuss the need for before and after school programs, summer activities and other out-of-school time (OST) learning opportunities for youth. To strengthen ways that city and state leaders collaborate to provide these opportunities, the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) has selected nine statewide afterschool networks from across the country to host mayoral summits on expanding access to afterschool programs and building citywide OST systems. The project is generously supported through a partnership between the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and The Wallace Foundation. Planning for a 2012 Richmond Mayoral Summit will begin in the upcoming weeks.

“I commend VPOST for helping the city and the Commonwealth obtain this very valuable opportunity to provide for the betterment of our young people,” said Mayor Dwight Jones. “I would like to thank the National League of Cities for the grant award, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and The Wallace Foundation for funding such an important and vital resource to help city and state governments expand the learning and enrichment opportunities for America’s youth.”

“In addition to the increased supports and services that an expanded set of afterschool programs can provide to children and youth in the Commonwealth, the afterschool field is the best kept secret in the world of workforce development,” said VPOST Director, Blaire Denson. “This is an exciting time in Virginia as there is an increase of interest in programs that are an integral part of our educational system, providing academic assistance and enrichment opportunities to youth and families in need.”

VPOST is a state-wide public-private partnership dedicated to developing and expanding academic, social, emotional, and physical supports and services to school-age children and youth across the Commonwealth of Virginia during the out-of-school time hours – before-school, after-school, vacation periods, and summer.

The nationwide summits will convene mayors, city council members, state agency officials, school and business leaders, and community partners to discuss the importance of afterschool programming and how to expand opportunities for youth by improving policies and partnerships at the state and city levels. Each statewide network will receive $6,600 to host a summit and will also receive assistance from the YEF Institute on outreach, messaging to city leaders and strategic planning.

This is the second round of states to be chosen for this project; the five states chosen in the first round held summits in 2009 and 2010. The nine statewide networks selected in the second round that will hold summits throughout 2012 include:

• Louisiana Center for Afterschool Learning

• Maryland Out of School Time Network

• Youth Community Connections (Minnesota)

• Nebraska Community Learning Center Network

• North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs

• Oregon Afterschool for Kids

• Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network

• Virginia Partnership for Out-of-School Time

• Washington Afterschool Network

The Institute for Youth, Education and Families, an entity within the National League of Cities, helps city leaders take action on behalf of the children, youth and families in their communities. NLC launched the YEF Institute in January 2000 in recognition of the unique and influential roles that mayors, city council members and other local leaders can play in strengthening families and improving outcomes for children and youth.

The National League of Cities is the nation’s oldest and largest organization devoted to strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mayor Cites Tax Amnesty Program as Boost to Tax Collections

~$7.1 million collected is three times higher than the amount collected prior~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones reported on the city’s 2011 Real Estate Tax Amnesty program which took place from February 15 to April 15, 2011. The Jones Administration sought and won the authority to offer the amnesty program during the 2010 General Assembly session and the city of Richmond was the only locality authorized to have such a program.

"Our first amnesty program covering past-due real estate taxes waived any penalties to the real estate taxes owed by a property-owner," said Mayor Jones. "Through this program we were able to provide some relief for those taxpayers who may still have been adjusting to the new twice-yearly real estate collections, as well as just general relief in light of the tough economy we’ve been facing."

Taxpayers had until April 15 to pay without penalty. The program covered past-due real estate taxes, and taxpayers were able to make payments directly to the city so that no collection agency fees applied.

“This was an opportunity for taxpayers to ‘get right’ with their back real estate taxes,” said Mayor Jones. “I want to thank those city residents who responded to this opportunity as we realized a 66% increase in real estate tax collections during the amnesty period with a total of $7.1 million collected.” Twenty-one percent of the amount collected was tracked as a direct result of the amnesty program.

Future amnesty programs would require additional General Assembly action. This is the second time in history that the city of Richmond has been authorized to have a tax amnesty program. The first time was in 1994 and was championed by then-Delegate Dwight C. Jones (The city did not use the authority granted at that time). The current authority was sponsored by Delegate Jennifer McClellan at the city's request.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mayor Outlines Plan for $2.1 Million in RRHA-held Funds

~Ordinance introduced to transfer funds back to City~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones introduced an ordinance today to transfer $2.1 million in funding being held by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) to the City's general fund. The funds represent remaining project monies from the redevelopment of the former Miller & Rhodes department store and related parcels, which was managed by RRHA for the City of Richmond.

The Jones administration had initially called for the remaining project funds to remain with RRHA in preparation for the planned purchase, on behalf of the City, of the Fan-area GRTC property. Mayor Jones wanted the city to have an active role in the future of the site because of the significant development potential. "Initial plans for directing these funds to the purchase of that site have shifted as we've acquired better and additional information with respect to the needs of that particular site," said Mayor Jones. "Additional consideration has also been given to the change in leadership at both the GRTC and the RRHA, and looking at all these factors, I believe we can better utilize these funds now, while still protecting our future interest in the development of the GRTC property."

The city's initial plans to secure the site via RRHA were to occur after site remediation, which is the responsibility of GRTC. The timeline for disposition of the GRTC property has been impacted on two major fronts: compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and compliance with environmental regulations of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The site still needs to produce a corrective action plan and gain DEQ approval, which is not expected to be completed until mid-2013. The extended timeframe provides an opportunity to work more directly with GRTC in a streamlined fashion.

In explaining his concerns about the change in leadership, Mayor Jones offered that, "We've had some successes with RRHA lately, like the forward movement we've experienced with Dove Court for example. We've recently gotten approval for low-income housing tax credits for that site and Dove Court is a perfect example of what can be achieved when a housing authority has a focused agenda with a clear direction. At this time, I want to unburden our housing authority with this more complex matter, especially in light of its reduced capacity for real estate development resulting from the agency's changes."

The city will ultimately have an agreement with GRTC setting forth the goals and objectives for future redevelopment of the site. It is expected that those goals and objectives will be incorporated into an eventual development agreement. No specific plans for the site have been determined at this time.

The transfer is being proposed to support comprehensive economic and community development strategies. A portion of the funds will be targeted to business attraction, expansion and retention initiatives. The Mayor's ordinance also calls for investment in the Broad Street corridor and ArtBusiness Richmond as well as the East End/Nine Mile Road/25th Street redevelopment plan. Funding is proposed for an affordable housing trust fund; the city's Workforce Development Pipeline training program; a feasibility analysis, as called for by City Council, for the City Stadium property and the GRTC property; and funding for improvements to outdoor sports-related projects for advancing high school athletics throughout the city of Richmond.

"I believe the use of these funds to enhance priority community revitalization and quality-of-life programs, initiatives and activities is a prudent use of these available funds and I'm hoping for Council's support of this effort," said Mayor Jones.