Stoney: Half of extra tax dollars generated from proposed downtown project would go to schools

Stoney: Half of extra tax dollars generated from proposed downtown project would go to schools

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney continues to push his proposed mega-redevelopment of downtown, including a new arena to replace the Coliseum. Stoney pledged that most of the billion-plus dollars in surplice tax money anticipated to be generated from the project, would go to schools.

Stoney said 50 percent of the surplus revenue, projected to be $1.2 billion over 30 years, would go to rebuilding aging schools.

"This is an important time in the city of Richmond,” said Stoney during a press conference at George Mason Elementary, one of the first schools slated to be rebuilt with other funds secured by the city, in part by a meals tax increase.

Funding for a list of other schools still needs to be found.

Stoney has been working to gain as much support as possible for his proposed $1.4 billion redevelopment project, north of Broad Street. The Navy Hill Redevelopment Project includes a new arena replacing the Coliseum, a hotel, apartments with affordable housing, GRTC bus transfer station, rehabilitated Blues Armory and street improvements.

Investors would put up the money. Stoney says the taxes generated from the project are projected to be 1.7 billion over 30 years. $600 million of that newly generated tax money would pay back investors for the city-owned arena, armory and road improvements. The remaining amount, $1.2 billion, would go to the city.

Here is Mayor Stoney’s breakdown of how the projected $1.2 billion in new tax revenue would be spent:

  • 50% --> schools = $600 million
  • 15% --> housing = $180 million
  • 1 % --> arts = $12 million
  • 34% --> core city services = $400 million

"If we do nothing, we leave $1.7 billion on the table," said Stoney. Even though Stoney had the backing of some members of the Richmond School Board, including the superintendent, not everyone is convinced.

A third-party consulting firm estimated costs and pay-offs associated with the project. The firm was paid $500,000 of city dollars to complete its assessment.

"My experience on this planet has been for every expert who will tell you one thing, there’s another expert who will tell you the exact opposite,” said Richmond School Board member Jonathan Young, of the projected amount of tax revenue touted by the Stoney administration.

Young questions whether this project will really generate the money experts project.

"All these proposals end up underestimating cost and overestimating the kind of revenue we can see,” he said.

Stoney maintains that if the development fails, taxpayers won't be on the hook for their share. Investors would absorb the approximate $600 million.

Young finds it hard to believe the city won’t be harmed, if the project turns out to be a bust.

"I think it’s highly unlikely that any responsible municipality would allow bonds to default, even if the ordinance is drafted in a way where in the city taxpayers are technically not on the hook for it,” said Young.

Young says he’d support the project if fewer tax payer dollars were on the line to pay back investors.

Stoney says he’ll officially submit the proposal in an ordinance to city council in the next few weeks. The city council will have to approve the plan, for it to become a reality.

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