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Richmond mayor proposes city budget to council

Levar Stoney, in blue suit and striped tie, speaks to City Council
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Mayor Levar Stoney made his budget request to Richmond City Council on Monday afternoon.

It’s $300 million more than last year’s ask, largely due to increased revenues from varied taxes.

Mayor Levar Stoney shared a $3 billion fiscal 2024 budget proposal with City Council Monday — a $300 million increase over last year’s budget largely credited to revenue increases in property, sales and prepared meals taxes.

At the meeting, Stoney mainly focused on proposed spending for affordable housing, funding for school construction and after-school programs, as well as raises for city employees.

He highlighted $10 million in capital improvement funds for affordable housing projects in each of the next five years — or $50 million in total — that the mayor said will provide more housing options for all Richmonders.

“The pandemic and related support programs, which are now ending, coupled with inflation and a lack of supply, have created this crisis,” Stoney said.

The issue’s become a flashpoint for City Council, as activists recently called on the city to show how money earmarked for affordable housing projects is being spent.

The proposal also included $800,000 in funding for the Eviction Diversion Program and includes money for a second homeless services liaison position. Stoney asked City Council to allocate $1.75 million for a year-round emergency shelter, as well, which the city has struggled to stand up in recent years.

Stoney said he wants council to match an increase of 10.6% in recurring revenues with a 10.6% increase in Richmond Public Schools’ operating budget. The proposal would increase the operating budget of Richmond Public Schools to $221.5 million. RPS last week proposed a $229.3 million budget.

Stoney spent much of his Monday presentation detailing those funds — including $200 million for the school board to use on construction and renovation projects — and $15 million dedicated to rebuilding William Fox Elementary School. He said the increase would help RPS match raises negotiated during the collective bargaining process. (The school district is currently one of three statewide that allows employees to unionize.)

The mayor also highlighted potential raises like 8% for salaried city employees, as well as an hourly minimum wage increase from $17 to $18. Plus, Stoney recommended pay increases that he says would result in most police and firefighters getting a 5% raise.

Under the budget plan, the Department of Human Resources would receive $2 million to cover collective bargaining costs including staffing, legal counsel and educational materials.

Stoney also proposed a $1.4 million pot of federal American Rescue Plan funds aimed at helping city employees find homes in Richmond, and $650,000 in tuition assistance for employees.

If council approves Stoney’s proposal, the city would set aside $440,000 for off-site renewable electricity purchases. That would cover half of the electricity used by Richmond’s government. Stoney has committed to purchasing 100% clean energy for city usage by 2025.

Under the proposal, council members would split an additional $180,000 to use on projects and events in their districts.

Stoney’s also requesting an additional $240,000 for GRTC compared to last year. He said this will ensure that bus fares remain free.

The city will hold a March 27 public hearing on the budget and must finalize its spending plan by May.

Correction, March 7: A previous version of the story misidentified the timeline for purchasing 100% of Richmond government’s electricity from off-site renewable sources. It also misstated the amount of money City Council members will receive for district projects.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.