Tag Archives: The Budget

Mayor Wants New Budget Deadline

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

It seems like I need an office at City Hall because I’m about to start spending a lot more time in the building. Fall proposals and deadlines are ramping up and budget time is already here. Mayor Dwight Jones officially began the process today, by asking City Council members for more time to put together his 2011 budget.  He said, “This will be the first, truly, outcome based budget that Richmond has ever had. We’re not just putting numbers together. We have goals and priorities to meet.”

The Mayor is asking the council to allow him to present his final budget proposal on April 7th. By law, the council has to pass a budget by May 31st. The  mayor is also offering to hold more joint meetings with council members during the budget process.

Councilman Marty Jewell says he doesn’t mind extending the Mayor’s deadline. He said, “It’s a good idea. Usually we wait until February/March to get his budget. Well, this way we’re able to input into that budget all year-long.”

Council member Chris Hilbert says he’s concerned about not having enough time. He said, “This is a big, thick, document that we have to go through line by line and we owe it to the taxpayers to be able to deliberate over that.”

Bruce Tyler also says April 7th is too late to wait for the budget report. Tyler added, “It’s going to be very difficult for us to ask questions and get good answers back. So, I believe we need to roll it back to the traditional date.”

City Council members will have the final say on this issue. The mayor must formally submit the proposal and it must be approved by the council.

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Filed under Budget, City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones

Back By Popular Demand

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

The blog is back. It didn’t really go anywhere. I’ve just been lazy in posting lately. I blog when I have free time at work, which is becoming more and more infrequent. This month has been crazy busy. It’s sweeps and after tomorrow I will have had 4 special reports air this month. Excuses, Excuses… but I promise to make an effort to get back to the blogging this week. And, with that said, on to the politics of Richmond…

The Budget: City Council passed the budget Monday night in an 8 to 1 vote. Councilman Bruce Tyler was the lone holdout, but his vote was more a protest to an item left in the budget. Overall, the budget is about $50,000 dollars more than Mayor Dwight Jones had submitted to council. A council spokesperson says total expenditures in the budget were cut by $5.2 million. ($4.6 million is the result of state cuts to education) The council also restored funds for the Spanish Immersion program; a popular class in certain elementary schools where students learn math and science in spanish. The budget lists several interesting expenditures, that I’m already looking in to for a future story. Can’t say more than that yet, because my competition reads my blog!

Mayor’s Response: Last night, Dwight Jones was touting “how few changes” the council made to his budget proposal.  He said, “I am pleased to that City Council has embraced our outcomes-based budgeting plan with an overwhelming vote.” He went on to say, “This outcomes-based approach will allow us to more thoroughly shape a vision for the future of the city.”

Night Club Ordinance: The mayor and several council members introduced a new ordinance to help the city better regulate problem night clubs. It’s basically a dance hall permit, which other localities already have in place. It applies to businesses where dance floors take up more than 10% of the business.  If approved, the ordinance would require establishments to obtain a $100 annual permit. The permit could be revoked after an administrative hearing if the business is deemed a public nuisance. Club owners and event promoters would also have to pass criminal background checks. The ordinance would also establish requirements for security. So, how do businesses in Richmond feel about the ordinance???? Looking for those answers now. Let me know what you think of  the plan.

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The Devil is in the Details…

Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

Sure, there are no new taxes in the Mayor’s proposed budget. And there are no major cuts to services, but that doesn’t mean the city’s budget situation won’t hit taxpayers in the wallet. Jones is calling for rate increases for natural gas, water and waste water.

If his proposal is passed by city council the water rate would rise 4%, and the gas and waste water fees would rise by about 2%.  So what does that mean in dollars and cents????

Average Monthly gas bills would go from $91.96 to $92.79 …. difference-83 cents

Average Monthly water bills would go from $29.17 to $29.32….. difference 15 cents

Average Monthly waster water bills would go from $44.18 to $44.40…. difference 22 cents

 The city says the increases are necessary because of  increased state and federal regulations as well as capital needs of the utilities systems. (Translation: that means because of the economy.)

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Breaking Down Richmond’s Budget

Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

It’s here! It’s here! (You’d think I was writing about a new Harry Potter movie hitting the theaters.) Nope! I’m referring to the Mayor’s 2011 proposed Budget. To a journalists it means lots of stories this week. It takes a few days to comb through all the fine print and pages. For now, I’ll give you the quick run through.

No New taxes. No major cuts to service. No furloughs for city employees. (No raises, either) And only 11 layoffs out of more than 4,000 positions. We’d been reporting about a $30 million shortfall. Well, it grew to $34 million. So how did they fill the gap without cutting services? They cut the fat and duplicate services. It looks like Richmond is trying to be more efficient. Mayor Dwight Jones said at the meeting, “We can not tax our way out of this situation, nor can we cut our way out of these financial challenges. We’ve got to implement new strategies that allow the city to weather the storm while positioning ourselves for stronger and sustainable growth.” The mayor called his budget an economic recovery strategy and went on to say, “We’re intentional about trying to change the way city government operates.”

I caught up with City Council President Kathy Graziano today. She said she liked the Mayor’s presentation and hopes, “that working together we can begin to be a city where people say, ‘hey we can get stuff done in Richmond.”

The budget:

*$637.2 million

*Proposes Semi-annual Property Tax payments. (you pay half in January/half in June) Projected to save the city $1.7 million each year. Currently the city borrows upwards of $70 million each year. The two payments will

*Gets tough on Delinquent Parking Fees. There are 47,819 outstanding parking tickets in the last three years on 33,548 plates. The bill totals $3,000,000.

*Adds a $30 Administrative Fee for taxpayers who are late paying real estate and personal property taxes

*Combines city and school plans for a projected savings of $3,000,000. (Currently the two city schools employees are on a different plan) The switch also means premiums will not go up.

*Dissolves the Broad Street Community Development Authority. (Expected to save the city $2.5 million each year)

Council will set the tax rate on April 12th. It currently sits at $1.20 per 100 dollars of assessed value. There are proposals to raise it, but my sources say that won’t happen. The council will vote on the Mayor’s budget on May 24th.

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Filed under Budget, City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones, Uncategorized

Who Should Control Animal Control?

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

Forget budget cuts and shortfalls! The real question these days at city hall is “who let the dogs out?” I’m kidding about the title, but not the brewing battle. It appears people are very concerned about who is in charge of Animal Control. From day one, the mayor has said he was going to look for ways to streamline government, find savings and increase services. He made headlines a few months ago when he decided to re-organize the Department of Economic Development. His latest proposal may not get through council as easy. His administration wants to abolish the Department of General Services. Then move the 311 Call Center to Public Utilities.  The print shop would go to Information Technology. Fleet management would be headed by Public Works. And then there’s Animal Control. The administration also wants to move it under Public Works. Some are pushing for the department to be headed by the Richmond Police. (Henrico County’s Animal Control is set up this way.) We learned today, the Police Chief is against the idea, so is the Mayor and CAO Byron Marshall. At a council breakfast they said, Animal Control would be better suited under Public Works. They’ve also moved to fill three vacant Animal Control Officer positions and will start getting more information out about the department through the Public Information Officer of Public Works.  

One source tells me this idea could split the council 5-4 and no one seems to know which way that vote would go.Kathy Graziano said today, “The bottom line is not what department does it. The bottom line is do we get the job done?”  At the meeting Byron Marshall, said Public Works would be better suited because it had the resources and man power. He also said better supervision by Public Works could lead to more animal adoptions and even more revenue for the city from people applying for animal tags.  Councilman Bruce Tyler raised the biggest stink today. He questions Public Works’ ability to handle all the new programs. Tyler said, “My biggest concern is that we’re creating a department that’s too big. We’re setting them up to fail.” He went on to say, “This is already one of the city’s largest departments and its track record is not good.” He sighted problems with the tree planting and removal program. He also pointed out the department’s trouble keeping up with Richmond’s pothole filled roads.

CAO Marshall said those problems are real, but are a money issue. He pointed out that the department was underfunded the last five years. And he said in this upcoming budget, the mayor will recommend more funding for Public Works for city roads and new city trees.

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Filed under City Council, City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

Richmond’s Budget Problems: 10 million in the hole

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

Update: Friday Nov. 20th: Met with the city’s Deputy Chief of Finance today, Marcus Jones. Nice guy. He’s been on the job for about 3 months now and walked into a tough budget.  The city’s already trimmed 25 million from its budget. Now its facing another 10 million dollars in cuts. The city’s already made the tiny cuts to get by… this time there may have to be some real meat. Not good news. Service and jobs could be on the table. The mayor has given his finance people until mid-December to come up with a viable plan. Update end.

The state just released a bleak financial picture and a day later… Richmond follows. The city is facing a $10 million dollar budget shortfall. It’s actually not too bad considering the city has a $1.5 billion dollar overall budget. The mayor cites reductions in state funding and a drop in sales tax revenues as the reason for the shortfall.  Mayor Dwight Jones says, “The entire nation has been experiencing lingering effects of the recession and Richmond is no exception. A number of key revenue sources weakened in FY 2009, and they are continuing to falter in the current year (FY 2010).  Moreover, we have to be realistic and assume that the ripple effects will continue into FY 2011.”

The main reason for the lower than project revenue is the decline in the sales tax collections. Local sales revenues are 7.9 million less than projected and the state share is down $1.9 million. Another $2.6 million of the shortfall is a direct result of the state’s budget cuts announced in September 2009.

The Chief Deputy of  Finance will speak before Council Vice-President Ellen Robertson’s Finance Committee meeting  tomorrow at 4:00 in City Council chambers. He’s going to go over the shortfall and how the city is planing to handle it.  Sounds like I’ll be following up on this tomorrow.

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Filed under Budget, City Council, Dwight Jones

Decision Richmond hits the “Big-Time”

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

rachelheadshotWe’ve made it! We’ve been discovered! Regular readers our hard work has paid off! We were quoted in the Times Dispatch today.  Well, my blog was quoted.. that counts right? I kid, I kid.  Though, it’s nice validation. And it’s good to know that my blog is actually read and all those hits everyday aren’t just me refreshing the page over and over and over! 🙂 

I do wish I’d been tipped off… but, at least now I know what it feels like to be surprised by a news story. Touche’. Nice story Will Jones. I have to agree with the assessment of the Richmond Police Department. Which has truly become more difficult to get information or interviews from in the last few months. Here’s a link to the article.   

City Council votes on the budget tonight. Word is there’s a small number of council members upset with the existing proposal. I understand Council member Marty Jewell could be leading the charge against the plan. There’s just one problem. If no budget is approved tonight then the city will revert back to the Mayor’s original plan. (and all the hard work of the last two months by council is null and void.) Should make for a good meeting.

 

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