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City’s budget plans for major capital improvements spending

Karen L. Gill
Richmond Department of Emergency Communications via Flickr
Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders speaking at the Basic Dispatch Academy graduation in August 2022.

The biggest increase is for various projects earmarked “Capital Investment Opportunities.” 

Richmond is considering a budget that would increase the amount for capital investments by 18%, Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders outlined in remarks to City Council on Monday.

There are two main components of each year’s budget “season.” The fiscal plan — which accounts for short-term spending like programming, staffing and short-term capital spending — is for one fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30.

The capital improvement plan spans five years and accounts for longer-term projects with lifespans typically longer than 20 years.

Last year’s five-year CIP amounted to $627 million, while this year’s is $739.5 million.

The largest increase was in “Capital Investment Opportunities,” which includes a replacement Richmond Fire structure in Southside, a new First Precinct building for the Richmond Police Department, parks improvements and the Southside Community Center.

Proposed Capital Investment Opportunities also allot $10 million a year in funding for affordable housing financed through bonds each year for the next five years.

That amount surpasses the amount that would’ve been funded through a dedicated stream of tax dollars which has been the topic of a contentious lobbying effort by a grassroots group in Richmond.

Although the introduction to the CIP says that Mayor Levar Stoney has pledged to invest $10 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, at City Council’s budget work session on Monday, Saunders outlined the city’s approach to that funding change.

“We're coming to the point where we're not going to have new properties rolling off of the abatement program. And so we would hit a ceiling of about $5.2 million,” he said.

Saunders said the city hoped funding through bonds would provide better planning.

Councilmember Ellen Robertson also raised questions about the AHTF’s future in Monday’s work session.

“We have also asked that we rethink whether or not the affordable housing advisory board needs to be re-thought,” she said. “Because right now, the board serves no function if we don't appropriate any money, right?”

VPM News filed a Freedom of Information request for documents related to the AHTF. It has yet to be answered by the city.

The CIP’s Capital Transportation Program, funded by bonds, also saw a significant 58.7% bump in funding.

The portion’s largest single project for this year is for a “complete streets” program.

Complete streets is a design approach requiring streets to enable “safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation,” according to the CIP.

$21 million is proposed for fiscal 2024, with $28.1 million more in funding over the five years. Last year’s adopted plan had $12 million for fiscal 2024.

The fiscal plan is primarily funded through taxes, and the CIP is funded through bonds and transportation funds from federal, state and regional sources.

The proposed CIP is $1.6 billion in spending, with $362.1 million for fiscal 2024, which begins July 1.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.