Catching Up with Wilder:
Yes, you read that headline right! I ran into former Richmond Mayor and Virginia Governor Doug Wilder today. I don’t have a lot to report, but I can tell you… He says he’s doing well, enjoying teaching, (he doesn’t miss his old job) and he’s working on a book that should be out later this year.
On To Bad News Monday:
I knew I was doing a budget update today, but the news just seemed to get worse as the morning progressed. (I’ll start with the good news) The city’s projected budget shortfall for this year is far less than expected. It was thought to be at $10 million, but now is estimated to be $2.8 million. Mayor Dwight Jones says, “This is largely a result of unanticipated improvements in real estate and sales tax performance as well as a better picture of State Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).”
Now to the bad news…. Next years budget is far worse than expected. There’s already a $30 million budget gap and that number could grow. Furloughs, position eliminations, layoffs and cuts to services are all on the table. Councilman Bruce Tyler told me today, “Yeah, there are going to be tough choices but quite frankly, I’ve watched fellow collegues have to go through that and it’s time for the city to do the same.” Council President Kathy Graziano said, ” The Individual is in the same boat as the government. Two years ago you went out to dinner three nights a week and had a great time. Now you don’t go out to dinner. Governments are in the exact same boat.” She went on to say, “It’s tough times. The money’s not there and we’ve got to figure out how we can best spend our resources.” Mayor Jones has also asked for more time to get his budget recommendations together. He normally presents his plan to City Council on March 5th, but he’s asking for an extra month so he can get a better handle on what the General Assembly does with taxpayer money.
And just when I thought I was done with budgets for the day, I went to see school Superintendent Yvonne Brandon who was delivering difficult news to teachers and parents today. She say the school system is $14 million in the hole for the 2011 budget and that number could grow to $23 million depending on what the General Assembly decides. She says every single RPS employee will have to be furloughed at least a day, possibly three. I learned today that one day of furloughs at RPS equals $900,000. Brandon says she’ll do everything she can to avoid layoffs. Classroom sizes will also increase by at least one student. Brandon will deliver her recommended budget cuts to the School Board next Tuesday. Both the Mayor and Superintendent will then seek public input on the cuts. It’s going to be a long couple of months at City Hall….