New jail and schools funding on Richmond budget amendment list

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – City leaders are still hammering out the details of Richmond's budget. Tuesday night we got our first look at City Council's wish list. Funding for new schools and a new city jail could be in jeopardy and GRTC funds are also on the chopping block.

City Council members spent hours scrutinizing the list of budget amendments. It is six pages long and represents millions in taxpayer dollars the council either wants to add or subtract from the mayor's budget proposal.

City leaders have debated it and Richmonders have cried out for a new jail and new schools to replace the aging facilities currently in use. The money for those projects is included in the mayor's proposal, but Councilman Bruce Tyler wants to postpone more than $46 million in funding to future fiscal years. He said he doesn't believe the money will actually be spent in Fiscal Year 2011.

"The one thing I'll say about government, nothing moves fast," he said. "The schools should have been built. The jail should have been fixed and every year we go through this cycle and we throw money at it and everybody feels good that we're trying to do something."

Mayor Dwight Jones' staff told the council this year is different and they stand by the money they requested.

"We have to have the appropriation in the budget so that we can sign the contract," agreed Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. "Are we going to pay the contractor the entire $29 million this year? No! But we have to have the appropriation in the budget."

$1 million in funding to GRTC is also on the potential chopping block but some council members expressed concern this could lead to fare increases and cuts in services.

Councilman Tyler contends GRTC can still function with $1 million less if, he said, "they're willing to be innovative."

The budget amendments also include cutting $200,000 for the mayor's security detail. Tyler said those police officers are better used on the streets, protecting all Richmonders, instead of just one person.

Funding for Fridays at Sunset is on the table. A similar measure has not made it through the process in previous years.

No final decisions were made Tuesday night. The council will meet again Thursday to vote on each amendment.

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