City budget, the high road
5/3/2019, 6 a.m.
We are anxious to read the details of Richmond City Council’s proposed $746 million budget plan for 2019-2020, which is up for a final vote on Monday, May 13.
We commend City Council for fully funding Richmond Public Schools’ operating and capital budget requests without relying on a 9-cent hike in the city’s real estate tax rate. Currently at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value, the city’s tax rate is the highest in the region.
Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s proposal to hike the rate gave little consideration to the additional tax burden faced by many Richmond property owners who have seen their real estate assessments shoot up by 25 percent this year. The higher assessments are expected to generate an additional $28.5 million for the city that will go toward funding the public school system’s major needs. That figure includes $22 million administration officials previously projected would be generated by the higher assessments and another $6.5 million that wasn’t included in the mayor’s budget plan.
We expected council members to take the lead in making the tough decisions in cobbling together this budget.
While the council cut more than $7 million from Mayor Stoney’s proposed capital budget, members pumped roughly $800,000 into expanding GRTC bus service in South Side and the East End. This is a major development for people living in neighborhoods in those parts of the city who will have greater access to transportation to reach jobs, doctors’ appointments, schools, grocery stores and retail establishments. We cannot ignore the barrier the lack of transportation has been for so many of our residents. We hope this can open doors and opportunity for those who live in the South Side and East End.
We also register our dismay at the ploy used by Mayor Stoney’ top administration officials in walking out of budget negotiations with the council. We know from the gridlock in Washington that the tactic of “going nuclear” doesn’t win friends and influence people. Taking a break is acceptable; going nuclear is not.
The bottom line is that we expect our public servants — including elected and appointed officials — to be dedicated to the good of Richmond and to the best outcomes for the future of this city and its people.
What is also imperative is for the administration and City Council to respect one another, even if they don’t agree on the details. There is more than one road to every destination. We hope Mayor Stoney and his administration and City Council all will choose the high road.