Thursday, August 9, 2018

City and RPS Administration Complete Review of Richmond Public Schools Capital Maintenance and Construction Accounts



The City of Richmond’s Department of Budget and Strategic Planning and Richmond Public Schools Finance staffs have completed a preliminary reconciliation of all RPS managed capital projects through the end of the 2018 fiscal year.  



As of June 30, RPS Capital Project Accounts have the following balances:


●      Schools Capital Maintenance (Award #500492)                    $ 5,119,182
●      Schools Capital Maintenance – Cash (Award #500840)           2,650,109
●      High School Athletic Facilities (Award #500493)                          568,000
●      Schools ADA Compliance (Award #500495)                                975,866
●      Schools Bus Lease (Award #500863)                                          771,093

                                                                                             Total: $10,084,251

The June 30th balance in the School CIP Planning and Construction is $12,235,946.

These balances are in addition to the $1.6 million Mayor Stoney included in the FY19 budget for RPS maintenance, and the $150 million investment the administration has made in new schools construction.

School Board Chairwoman Dawn Page said the reconciliation provides greater clarity to the resources available to RPS.


“The School Board welcomed the discussion to reconcile the funding sources between the city and Richmond Public Schools,” said Board Chairwoman Dawn Page. “We appreciate the collaboration with the city toward a common goal of providing a welcoming and enriched learning environment for the students and families we serve. This certainty will allow us to develop a plan of action and to request the necessary budget amendments to address the most pressing needs of the school district.”

“I look forward to the school board’s decisions on how to utilize these funds, and to working with them to advance the necessary amendments to Council,” said Mayor Stoney. “Having a clear accounting of these funds will help us provide better maintained facilities and positive learning environments to help our children achieve their potential.”


“When we work together, our kids win. Having clarity on these numbers is enormously helpful. I want to thank my team as well as the city’s for working so diligently on this,” said Superintendent Jason Kamras.



For more information on Richmond Public Schools, please contact Kenita Bowers at kbowers@rvaschools.net or call (804) 780 – 7100.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Richmond Receives Enhanced Credit Rating Outlook


This week, Moody’s revised upward its credit rating outlook for the City of Richmond, from “stable” to “positive,” and reaffirmed the city’s credit rating of “Aa2,” citing strong trajectories in the city’s finances and growing economy. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch also both reaffirmed their “AA+” credit ratings, which are considered highly rated and are just one notch below “AAA,” the highest possible rating attainable.

Following the visit last month to New York by Mayor Stoney and city administration leaders, Richmond received reaffirmation of its credit ratings from all three agencies in connection with its upcoming general obligation bond issuance. Richmond has once again been designated as “AAA” for Operating Performance by Fitch Ratings.

“I am encouraged that just 15 months after presenting our key accomplishments and progress to these rating agencies, Moody’s has issued this revised, ‘positive’ outlook, reaffirming the city’s improved and solid financial standing and upward trajectory,” said Mayor Stoney. “These strong ratings will save the city millions of dollars in borrowing that can be used to fund core priorities like schools and public safety.”

Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn added, “The city’s revised credit rating outlook has been accomplished with the tireless efforts of our finance staff. We are trending with strong operating results and an improved financial position due also to our large and growing tax base.”

David Rose of Davenport & Co. reaffirmed as much, saying, “Moody’s was clearly impressed by the mayor’s bold vision for the city and key accomplishments of the past 15 months. This upward revision to a ‘positive’ outlook reflects the continued strong momentum in Richmond’s financial performance, economy and tax base.”

In connection with these recent ratings, the city anticipates selling approximately $57 million of tax-exempt and taxable general obligation bonds for general capital and economic development projects by the end of July.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Mayor Stoney Announces Release of Monument Avenue Commission Report


The Monument Avenue Commission has completed a yearlong review and public engagement process examining the Confederate statuary of Monument Avenue and submitted its report to Mayor Levar M. Stoney. As promised, the full report submitted to the mayor is available to the public and can be found on the website, monumentavenuecommission.org

The 117-page report, prepared by the 10-member Commission appointed in June 2017, is a thorough review of history, recent events, public engagement and research on the Confederate monuments that, as the Commission report states, has “been a source of pride and shame for the City’s residents since the time of their installations.” The report concludes with series of options recommended for consideration by city officials that suggest ways given the current legal climate in Virginia, “to determine how best to reconcile a particular landscape viewed as both sacred and profane.”

“Given all we have heard, read and learned, the Commission strongly endorses a comprehensive approach that creates an environment (and City) that celebrates the contributions of many diverse groups and acknowledges the darker chapters of the City’s past,” states the report, which was compiled by Commission co-chairs Christy S. Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, and Dr. Gregg D. Kimball, Director of Education and Outreach for the Library of Virginia.

“In the course of the work, it became abundantly clear the majority of the public acknowledges Monument Avenue cannot and should not remain exactly as it is. Change is needed and desired. The public offered many fascinating ideas, and the majority seemed to favor a multi-faceted approach.”

The Monument Avenue Commission does not have legal authority and its report is not binding on city government. But the commissioners recommend a number of options and opportunities for the administration and city officials to explore for Monument Avenue. Among them:

  • Adding permanent signage that reflects the historic, biographical, artistic and changing meaning over time for each monument, to be drafted by prominent academic historians subject to approval by the Public Art or Planning Commissions.
  • Creating a permanent exhibit that takes a deeper historical look into the history of the monuments, creating a mobile app and new film and video features that ensure the narrative about Monument Avenue is “consistent and historically accurate.”
  • Engage Richmond’s arts community to create “new contemporary artistic works that bring new and expanded meaning” to Monument Avenue.
  • Commission a monument that commemorates the resilience of the formerly enslaved, such as a work dedicated to soldiers of the United States Colored Troops.
  • Pending the outcome of current litigation or changes in state law, remove the Jefferson Davis monument and repurpose the site for a new monument. “Of all the statues, this one is most unabashedly Lost Cause in its design and sentiment,” the commissioners wrote.
“A holistic narrative acknowledges the emotional realities the Monument Avenue statues represent as well as other assets within the City,” the report states. “The options presented will require coordination between various groups within City government (Planning Commission and the Public Arts Commission) and – equally important – groups outside of it to implement the recommendations. The Commission also acknowledges one of the options will require a closer examination of existing law, outcomes of pending litigation and legislative action.”

In addition to research on the history of Virginia’s Monument Avenue, prevailing law and recent events, the report also includes data gathered through public engagement.
“We’d like to thank Mayor Stoney for convening this commission and for his faith in its members, and thank the residents of the City of Richmond for engaging with us throughout this important process,” Coleman and Kimball said in a joint statement. “It’s been an honor to serve.”

The convening of the commission, public engagement process and extensive research to produce the report marked the first time in more than 50 years that the City of Richmond has conducted a comprehensive review of Monument Avenue’s Confederate statues. During this process, the Commission received more than 1,800 letters and emails and solicited feedback from more than 1,200 people in public forums. Commission members, all volunteers, were not compensated and spent their own time and money to participate in the work of the Commission.

“On behalf of the City of Richmond, I want thank the members of the Monument Avenue Commission their service, and for taking on this responsibility at an important time in the life of our city and our nation,” said Mayor Stoney. “We are deeply grateful for their dedication, hard work and steadfastness to meeting the challenges of completing this task, which I consider to be a necessary step toward moving the city forward on this difficult issue and down a continued path of reconciliation and healing. I am especially thankful to Commission co-chairs Christy Coleman and Dr. Gregg Kimball for their countless hours and expertise in leading this distinguished group of scholars, historians and local public officials to promote a civil, civic conversation and expand our collective understanding of our history -- past, present and future.”

Mayor Stoney said he will take time to further study the report and urged others to do the same. 

 “Richmond has a long, complex and conflicted history, and the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue represents a shameful part of our past,” Mayor Stoney said. “As I have said before, the statues on this beautiful street are Lost Cause myth and deception masquerading as history. They are monuments to Jim Crow that do not reflect the qualities of inclusivity, tolerance and equality we celebrate as values in our city today. The Commission’s report is unequivocal in its affirmation that there is an overwhelming desire and belief they should not remain as they currently are. Something needs to change, and I could not agree more.”

A public presentation of the report to City Council by co-chairs Coleman and Kimball will be scheduled later this summer.

“This conversation will undoubtedly continue and I look forward in the coming weeks to reviewing this report in depth and exploring its recommendations with our administration, city council and various boards and commissions to see how we can translate the good work that has been done into concrete steps that move our city forward,” the Mayor said.

Key Narrative Excerpts from the Report:
“The statues on Monument Avenue have been a source of pride and shame for the City’s residents from the time of their installations. As the city has become more ethnically, politically and socioeconomically diverse, tolerance for the monuments’ artistic and cultural meaning has shifted over time. In essence it is a question of whether or not Monument Avenue reflects the citizenry and its values. It is for these reasons the commission was formed and tasked to determine how best to reconcile a particular landscape viewed as both sacred and profane.”

*

“In the course of the work, it became abundantly clear the majority of the public acknowledges Monument Avenue cannot and should not remain exactly as it is. Change is needed and desired. The public offered many fascinating ideas, and the majority seemed to favor a multi-faceted approach.”

*

“The sanitizing of textbooks in Virginia persisted well into the late twentieth century. It should be no surprise, then that the Commission heard such opinions in our listening sessions, despite several generations of academic scholarship that have largely corrected the historical record.”

*

“During the course of the meetings, it became abundantly clear that there were a number of historical inaccuracies being repeated by the public throughout the public meeting process about a number of topics related to the monuments. The Commission drew on the collective historical knowledge and collections of the Commonwealth’s preeminent state historical institutions, resulting in the website “On Monument Avenue” (onmonumentave.com). Likewise, the Commission drew on the collective research and publications of the scholarly community and other documented studies of Confederate memorialization.”

*

“We hope that the history presented here and on the Commission’s Website “On Monument Avenue” provides citizens with a common base of knowledge for discussing Monument Avenue and other examples of Confederate memorialization in the City of Richmond. The history also supports telling the story of the avenue in a variety of styles of interpretation and creating a robust dialog with the monuments. What the history cannot do is provide a definitive answer to the question of whether the monuments are appropriate as a representation of the city and its residents.”

The report also contains an Appendix that includes a number of source documents that may be helpful, including:

  • The Mayor’s initial remarks establishing the commission (Appendix A)
  • State laws governing Confederate Memorials (Appendix B)
  • City of Richmond Attorney Legal Opinion on the Monuments (Appendix C)
  • Data on Public Engagement
Key Dates:

June 22, 2017 – Mayor forms Monument Avenue Commission. Appoints 10 members to engage the public, explore ways to add context to existing Confederate statuary and suggest ideas for new monuments.

August 9, 2018 – First public meeting, attended by more than 500 people.

August, 16, 2017 – After tragedy in Charlottesville, Mayor expands scope of Commission to consider removal and/or relocation of monuments. Expresses his personal belief that the Monuments should be removed and/or relocated.

September 16, 2017 – Pro-Confederate Rally held in Richmond – Fewer than a half-dozen members of the Tennessee-based group New Confederate States of America (CSA II) show up at the Lee statue and are met by hundreds of counter protestors. Event results in no injuries and a handful of arrests.

November 14, 2017 – Monument Avenue Commission work session held.

January – May, 2018 – Delegations of commissioners attend small group meetings requested by community organizations.

May 10, May 19, 2018 – Final two public meetings held by the MAC and evening public work session to review findings from public engagement process and discuss elements of Commission report.

July 2 – Commission submits report to Mayor, following one-month extension to prepare and write the report
For more information, please visit monumentavenuecommission.org.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

City Revenue Increasing Through Expansion of Delinquent Tax Sales


Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced collection of delinquent real estate taxes, penalties and interest has dramatically increased during the past year through expansion of the delinquent tax sale program.

In this current fiscal year, which ends this week, the Office of the City Attorney successfully sold 134 delinquent properties through auction. Additionally, over $1.4 million was collected from 86 properties redeemed or sold by the owners after being placed into the program. This total of 220 properties represents many times the number sold or redeemed in fiscal year 2015 (40) and fiscal year 2016 (49).

In terms of revenue to the city, $5.9 million has been received this fiscal year. This total includes approximately $4.2 million in delinquent taxes, penalties and interest, plus nearly $1.7 million in legal expenses and related fees. This unprecedented increase in revenue collection was accomplished with additional personnel funding allocated to the Office of the City Attorney, engagement with an outside collections attorney and enhanced coordination with the Departments of Economic and Community Development, Finance and Planning and Development Review.

Mayor Stoney extended his appreciation to the city attorney and those involved in selling these properties and returning them to the active tax rolls. “This eliminates blight and addresses public safety challenges while enhancing economic development in the process,” said the mayor. “This was identified as a need in the VCU Performance Review, and our success is generating additional revenue for schools and public safety.”

In the next fiscal year beginning July 1, the Office of the City Attorney will endeavor to sell over 225 more properties at auction (in addition to realizing a significant number of expected redemptions), as well as an additional 100 properties via the engaged collections attorney as part of the new Economic Development Delinquent Tax Sale Program.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Mayor, City Officials Complete Successful Visits with Credit Rating Agencies


Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee-Glenn, city finance officials and representatives of Davenport & Company, the city’s financial advisors, completed successful visits with Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s last week in New York.
The delegation presented the city’s improved financial position and extensive growth in economic development, with the mayor highlighting accomplishments in a number of key focus areas in advance of a new debt issuance planned for this summer to support capital project spending and economic development initiatives.
Some key initiatives that were well received by the rating agency analysts included:
  • Early completion of the FY2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which allowed the city to save over $13 million in a debt refunding
  • The successful 2017 tax amnesty program
  • Investment of $150 million in new school facilities
  • Poverty reduction efforts such as increased state grant funds for community wealth building
  • Expansion of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and creation of a separate department dedicated to housing
  • Implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
The mayor also highlighted the city’s strengthened debt management, fund balance and reserve policies consistent with best practices of highly rated local governments.
The city’s presentation also cited positive demographic trends, such as Richmond’s population growth, reduction in the unemployment rate to 3.7% for April 2018 and expansion of the city’s tax base. The mayor highlighted the breadth of economic growth across the city and in all industrial sectors, with over $1.3 billion in investment announced or underway since January 2017.
Above and beyond these recent successes, city officials discussed the continued potential for neighborhood transformation and significant investment in the city’s downtown, as official negotiations commence with the North of Broad Redevelopment respondent to the city’s issued request for proposals (RFP).
“Thanks to sound fiscal management, disciplined and targeted funding priorities addressing our needs and increased investment, our financial position is strong,” said Mayor Stoney. “We look forward to building on this success in the coming fiscal year and leveraging this strength into opportunities to grow our city for the benefit of all of its residents.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Richmond Receives Award for Financial Report Demonstrating Accountability and Transparency to Citizens


The City of Richmond has been recognized by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) for publishing its first-ever Citizen Centric Report demonstrating accountability and transparency to citizens.

The AGA awarded the city with a Certificate of Excellence in Citizen-Centric Reporting for its 2017 report to citizens. The AGA encourages governments to publish the report informing citizens of fiscal priorities, performance results and future challenges. The report aims to provide citizens with a better understanding of their government by communicating financial and community information in visually appealing and understandable four-page documents. 

To achieve the Certificate of Excellence, a government must incorporate into their report the program’s high standards of content, visual appeal, readability, distribution and timeliness in reporting as outlined in the AGA’s judging guidelines.

“I am proud of the work our Department of Finance has done,” said Mayor Stoney. “This award recognizes the progress we’ve made and the Citizen Centric Report will give citizens confidence in our fiscal priorities and how we manage our public finances.”


The AGA highlighted the report’s outstanding visual appeal and positive message about the city’s demography, finances and priorities, as well as progress made in areas of concern to new and current residents.

“I commend our finance staff for preparing a report for citizens to review,” said CAO Selena Cuffee-Glenn. “It reflects both stewardship and accountability; and I hope citizens will take advantage of this publication and information it provides regarding the city’s financial health.”

Copies of this report are available online here. Citizens can also email citizencentric.report@richmondgov.com or call (804) 646-4CCR to provide suggestions for information they would like to see in future reports.

Mayor Stoney Celebrates 521 Biscuits & Waffles Ribbon Cutting


Mayor Stoney joined officials from the City’s Department of Economic and Community Development and the Office of Minority Business Development this morning to celebrate the recipients of the first loan under the City’s new Micro-Enterprise Loan Program.

The Mayor cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Biscuits & Waffles at 521 East Main Street. Iron Waffles LLC, doing business as 521 Biscuits & Waffles, is owned by Aaron Bond and his wife, Maria Jose’ Mejia Ruiz. The 521 Biscuits & Waffles is a gluten-free restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch.

“Small businesses are essential to flourishing communities and growing a prosperous city,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m extremely proud of the work our Office of Minority Business Development is doing to support and encourage entrepreneurial growth and development, and I look forward to seeing how this micro loan program will help launch many other successful new businesses.”
“I am very excited about this important ribbon cutting event in celebration of the first Micro-Loan closing under our new initiative,” said Pat Foster, Director of Minority Business Development Office. “The good news is this is the first of many!”

The Micro-Enterprise Loan Program is a relatively new city financing initiative. This loan program has a component tied to technical assistance and is for businesses with five or fewer employees including the owner(s). The Micro-Enterprise Loan Program fills a void for small businesses that need financing in the range of $2,500 up to $50,000. This loan program is funded with federal dollars and is administered by the City of Richmond.

For more information about the Micro-Enterprise Loan Program, please contact Patricia Foster at (804) 646-7966 or
Patricia.Foster@RichmondGov.com.