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Richmond Mayor Proposes Property Tax Increase, Cigarette Tax To Fund Schools, Roads

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney presented his 2020 budget to City Council on Wednesday afternoon.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney presented his 2020 budget to City Council on Wednesday afternoon.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney presented an ambitious budget to City Council Wednesday afternoon that included new taxes on residents.

Stoney’s $758 million proposed budget includes more than $17 million in new funds for Richmond Public Schools and an additional $16 million for street paving and sidewalk maintenance. He also proposed giving $1 million to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) for increased bus service in needy areas.

Stoney told City Council that in lieu of funding from the state or federal government, it’d be up to Richmonders to fund the city’s core priorities.

“With this budget we have an opportunity to invest in our children our families, and our neighborhoods, to build the city we all deserve,” he said.

The new school funding would go to increasing school counselors and a pay raise for teachers, Stoney said.

In order to fund this new spending, Stoney wants to raise the property tax rate in Richmond by 7.5 percent to $1.29 per $100. That’s on top of additional revenue the city is receiving from homeowners after property values rose last year. Stoney is also proposing adding a $.50 cigarette tax. The property tax increase and cigarette tax would raise an estimated $24 million.

The idea of raising taxes drew immediate pushback from some city council members.

Reva Trammell, who represents Southside residents, hammered Stoney with questions immediately after he ended his presentation. She demanded the mayor answer whether he was a property owner and, as Stoney grinned from his chair, she told him “I hope to God this is your last laugh.”

After the council adjourned, Trammell said told reporters she would oppose any tax increase.

“We got the highest meal tax, the highest real estate tax and the highest utilities,” she said. “Every year he says ‘It’s only a few dollars.’’ Well then you go pay it.”

Second District Council member Kim Gray and Fourth District Council member Kristen Larson also expressed concerns about Stoney's proposals, even though they support prioritizing schools and roads.

Larson said the City Council will look at cutting costs or creating new efficiencies before signing off on a tax increase.

“We really need to have a healthy discussion about decreases,” Larson said. “We need to see where we can tighten our belt. Before we look to our residents to tax them some more, I want them to feel like we are doing the best we can with the dollars they give us.”

City Council will ultimately decide what the budget will look like. They’ll begin deliberations on Monday at 9 a.m.

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