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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