Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mayor’s FY 2020 Budget Makes Historic Investments in Schools and Streets



Fully balanced proposal provides an increase of $18.5 million for Richmond Public Schools, $16.2 million for roads and sidewalks, $2.9 million for affordable housing, additional $965,000 for increased GRTC service and $485,000 in funding for eviction diversion

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today unveiled a FY 2020 budget making bold investments to meet Richmond’s long-neglected needs in public education and neighborhoods to build a more inclusive, more competitive and more equitable city.

“This budget marks a new beginning,” Mayor Stoney stated. “With this budget we have the opportunity to invest in our children, our families and our neighborhoods to build the Richmond our residents deserve.”

The fully balanced budget proposal presented to Richmond City Council provides an additional $18.5 million to fully fund the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) strategic plan, Dreams4RPS, which includes the local match for recently passed state salary increases for teachers. The city’s Capital Improvement Program budget also fully funds eligible RPS maintenance needs of $19 million.

“There is no investment more important, or worthwhile, than the investment we make in our children,” said Mayor Stoney, addressing the nine members of council in council chambers. “Their future is our future.”

The mayor’s budget also provides an historic investment of $16.2 million toward streets and sidewalks.

“From Church Hill to Westhampton, from Worthington Farms to Providence Park, these investments will allow us to support our neighborhoods in an equitable and sustainable way, not just this year, but every year,” the mayor said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this budget marks a new beginning,” Mayor Stoney continued. “With this budget, we have an opportunity to invest in our children, our families and our neighborhoods to build the city we all deserve.”

In addition to new investments in schools and streets, the mayor’s budget also includes funding for the following:

  • $2.9 million dedicated to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
  • An additional $965,000 to the Greater Richmond Transit Corporation for increased service and route frequency to those communities that need it the most
  • $485,000 for Richmond’s Eviction Diversion Program, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Additional staffing for the Department of Citizen Service and Response and RVA311, to reduce wait times and provide a higher level of customer service to residents
  • Continuation of planned step pay increases for police and firefighters, a raise in starting salaries for police officers to $43,000 and a cost of living adjustment for general city employees of 3 percent – the first increase of its kind in 15 years

The Capital Improvement Program budget of $96.9 million for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins July 1, makes a number of investments in city infrastructure, including:

  • $10 million to restore bridges and thoroughfares and for pedestrian traffic safety initiatives that reduce accidents and save lives through the Vision Zero program
  • Renovations to Powhatan and Southside Community Centers, and upgrades to Blackwell Playground and Chimborazo Park to enhance programming for youth and senior citizens 
  • Full funding for RPS maintenance needs

Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Considerations:

A projected $12 million increase in revenue growth for the coming fiscal year barely covers the approximate $10 million increase in non-discretionary city expenditures and leaves limited funding to tackle any of the major, longstanding challenges faced by the city to make improvements to schools or neighborhoods. These needs, and costs, have only grown larger following years of deferred maintenance and delayed investment at the local and state levels following the recession.

The recession was preceded, in 2006 and 2007, by tax cuts that took the city’s real estate tax rate per $100 of assessed value from $1.29 to $1.20, where it has remained for the last 11 years. As far back as 15 years ago, this tax was $1.38; and 30 years ago, it was $1.53.

To address these core priorities, Mayor Stoney is proposing a restoration of the real estate tax rate to its pre-recession level of $1.29 per $100 of assessed value – the same rate it was in 2006. He is also proposing the City of Richmond impose its first ever tax on cigarettes of 50 cents per pack. These common sense and fiscally-responsible proposals will yield additional revenues of $21.1 and $3 million, respectively.

The resulting major investments in roads and streets will move Richmond out of the recurring cycle of playing “whack-a-mole” with potholes and help restore the city’s infrastructure after years of neglect.

The resulting significant investments in public education will better enable RPS to fund its vision to provide students with the pathways to success they deserve. This needed education investment includes:

  • Funding to provide an equitable literacy plan to ensure all third graders read at their grade level
  • Restructured English and math curricula
  • An increase in the number of school counselors and nurses
  • Improved performance of the RPS bus system
  • Salary increases for teachers and support staff

Mayor Stoney made it clear he expects results from RPS – and a tangible return on the proposed investment by the city.  

“We will insist on accountability and commitment by the school board to produce an annual RPS scorecard tracking progress and performance, as well as a date certain to deliver their city school rezoning plan,” the mayor said. “No excuses.”

Mayor Stoney said the budget he is proposing is not “the easy thing to do. But it certainly is the right thing to do. It is designed to build on our successes while addressing years of deferred maintenance and delayed investment in our city.

In his speech, the mayor referenced the great American poet Langston Hughes, who wrote that a dream deferred is a dream denied.
“Whether it’s the dream of strong and thriving neighborhoods – or the Dreams 4 RPS strategic plan – we cannot allow these dreams to be deferred OR denied any longer.”

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NOTE: Following the budget presentation, Richmond City Council will commence its review process, which will include a series of public hearings and presentations by city department heads. Council is required to pass a balanced budget by the end of May. For more information and a schedule of council hearings, please visit the Richmond City Council webpage.

The City of Richmond FY 2020 budget can be found here.
Read Mayor Stoney’s budget remarks here.
Watch here.
Follow the City of Richmond on Facebook and Twitter.


Department of Public Works Receives Two Prestigious Awards


The Department of Public Works has received notification two of its projects are being recognized with awards from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA).
 

In January DPW entered submissions for three regional awards. The department was recently notified it won two of them:  

  • Donald S. Frady Award: Bridge Maintenance Team. In May 2018 the team identified major structural deterioration on the timber pedestrian bridge over Goodes Creek near Oak Grove Elementary School. The team redesigned and constructed a new bridge. It is more fortified than the previous timber bridge, making it safer for pedestrians. It also is less susceptible to flooding and water damage. By doing the work themselves, the team completed the project before the start of the school year and also saved the city $70,000.
     
  • Project of the Year Award: East Riverfront Transportation Improvement Project in the ‘Transportation $5 Million, but less than $25 Million’ category. Construction began in February 2017 on the more than $13 million revitalization project for the East End gateway into the city. Completed in June 2018, it comprises a quarter mile stretch of East Main Street between Nicholson Street and the CSX Bridge. Upgrades include street widening, bike lanes, parking on East Main Street west of Gillies Creek, sidewalks, traffic signals, landscaping, lighting and a newly constructed roundabout above the 100 year flood plain at East Main and relocated Dock Street.  

In addition, this project received an endorsement from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter that was forwarded to the National APWA Headquarters for award consideration.

The awards will be handed out in May at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter conference in Norfolk.


The Department of Public Works is accredited through the American Public Works Association. 


The APWA has member organizations throughout the United States and Canada.