City Council could decide how to spend surplus tonight

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond City Council could decide tonight how to spend a multi-million dollar budget surplus. Mayor Dwight Jones has laid out his recommendations, but council members have the final say on where the money goes.

The city has $6.7 million to spend. The Mayor credits a push to collect delinquent taxes and parking tickets, and his streamlining of city government for the extra money. "That speaks volumes to the efficiency of government," said council member Ellen Robertson.

Now the debate has begun on where it should go. "It's not a done deal what is going to happen," said Council President Kathy Graziano.

Mayor Jones has laid out a plan which includes $500,000 to help low income GRTC riders deal with a fare hike, $500,000 for the city's program to fight blight, and more than a million for the road, bike trail and sidewalk budget.

"I support the mayor's decision that this is to be spent on one time costs and not on new programs or new services," said Robertson.

Mayor Jones also wants to set up an emergency fund at city hall. He said, "We're going to put $2 million in a reserve fund so that we can be prepared for the next hiccups in the economy."

Graziano supports the idea, but will introduce a resolution tonight asking for tighter controls over the fund. "We need to be sure that if that emergency fund gets tapped into, what triggers the tap into it? Does council give approval for that tap into the emergency fund?"

And not every council members entirely supports the mayor's proposal for the surplus.

"That's the holiday package approach when all of a sudden you have this money and you start handing it out. I just think it's wrong. The bottom line is this is the taxpayers money and we need to look at from that perspective and not what programs we can start or enhance,"said Councilman Bruce Tyler.

Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall and could vote on the surplus proposal.

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