Facing the fastest pace of inflation seen in four decades and lingering challenges from the pandemic, the City of Richmond is weighing a spending plan for next fiscal year that would hold the line on tax rates while increasing investments in public safety, schools and other services.
Describing the plan as “conservatively grounded by the uncertainties of pandemic economics,” Mayor Levar Stoney on Friday presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 to the Richmond City Council, which will review the document in depth over the next several weeks in a series of workshops leading up to an initial public hearing April 11.
A final hearing would precede a scheduled vote May 2, ahead of the start of the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The proposed $836 million general fund budget represents an 8.5 percent increase over the current general fund and includes no increases in real estate, personal property or other general tax rates. The city’s real estate tax rate currently stands at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value.
The plan provides a 5 percent salary hike for all non-sworn city employees and a 10 percent pay increase for most police officers and firefighters, with 83 percent of those positions receiving an increase of 15 percent or more. The increases would bring the starting pay for police from $44,000 to over $51,000 per year.
The plan sets aside $15 million for Richmond Public Schools, increases funding for the city’s eviction diversion program by 50 percent to $727,000, and restores $436,000 in pandemic-era cuts to city libraries. It also allocates $400,000 to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, meant to assist with the museum’s acceptance and processing of the city’s Confederate monuments.
Some city fees and utility rates would increase with the plan. Monthly parking in city lots would cost $5 more per month, and the hourly rate would increase from $1.50 to $2. The plan also calls for a $1 increase in the municipal solid waste fee, and the annual rates for gas and water would increase by 4 and 3.5 percent, respectively, to offset increased costs. Wastewater charges would increase by 5.25 percent, and an 8.75 percent rate increase relates to storm water abatement costs.
The city’s five-year Capital Improvement Program, at $627 million, includes $28 million that was set aside this fiscal year for the planned Enslaved African Heritage Campus in Shockoe Bottom. Stoney said work on that project in FY23 will include community engagement, campus design and putting an initial phase of the project out to bid.
The budget also includes funds for the purchase of new software for the city’s inspections and permitting office. Stoney said the software would help the office better communicate to customers how the permitting process works, what’s required for a complete application, and application tracking.
The full budget document and the five-year CIP can be viewed on the city’s website.