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City Council to allocate millions in unexpected tax revenue

Richmond City Hall, circa 2020
Crixell Matthews
Property assessments, which are required by the state constitution to assess properties to reflect “fair market value,” increased by an average of 13% last year. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond City Council is considering how to spend $21 million in new property tax revenues from rising home assessments. The largest portion of the money would go to nonprofit organizations running inclement weather shelters for people experiencing homelessness, while the largest single recipient of the new funds would be the Richmond Police Department.

The money comes from higher home assessments due to Richmond’s real estate market growing at a “robust pace,” wrote Jason P. May, the city’s budget and strategic planning director, in a memo outlining the spending.

An ordinance submitted by Mayor Levar Stoney to City Council allocates $17 million. A city spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to VPM’s inquiries on the $3.9 million difference between the revenues and planned appropriations.

Money allocated to the police department, fire department, and emergency communications would all go toward pay adjustments, the memo said. The police would get $2.6 million, fire and emergency services $1.9 million, and emergency communications about $560,000. A press release from the mayor’s office said those pay adjustments would be for employees not accounted for in a $17 million increase in first-responder wages in May’s budget.

The Department of Economic Development would also get $1.75 million for “contractual increases related to the Diamond District and City Center Projects.” A spokesperson for the city didn’t return a request for comment by publication time, and a spokesperson for RVA Diamond Partners LLC, the Diamond District’s developer, said the LLC was not a recipient of the money.

There’s also $1.1 million for traffic-calming projects in the city.

Approximately $3.1 million has been earmarked for five nonprofits to implement inclement weather shelters. The city hasn’t settled on a contract to operate most shelters and has  run behind schedule to provide warm places for people experiencing homelessness during the cold winter months.

HumanKind and  Homeward, which provide family crisis services and homeless services, would also each get $1 million.

City Council is scheduled to vote on the appropriations during its Dec. 12 meeting.

“Taking care of our most vulnerable populations such as our homeless, families in crisis, and our youth -- is not only a necessary investment in their welfare, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Mayor Levar Stoney in an emailed release. “This funding will allow us to provide critical assistance in the coming months, and I appreciate Council’s support of our residents.”

During that meeting, councilmembers will also consider a number of ordinances that would  send rebate checks to homeowners. That proposal is worth $18 million, which would also come from higher-than-expected revenues.

Property assessments, which are required by the state constitution to assess properties to reflect “fair market value,” increased by an average of 13% last year.

Some of Richmond’s biggest companies and landlords would get the most back from the proposal,  according to reporting by Axios, but the city’s most dramatic home value increases were in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.