City council accepts plan to spend $6.7M surplus

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – "Who gets the money" was the heated question Monday night at City Hall as leaders hammered out what to do with a budget surplus of several million dollars.

City council members admit the plan to spend the $6.7 million surplus may not be perfect.

"It's not going to get rid of our problems but the sensitivity of what we are trying to do in this money I think is the right thing that we need to be doing for the people of Richmond," said Council Vice President Ellen Robertson.

With a vote of 7 to 1, council approved the mayor's plan to help low income bus riders deal with a fare hike, fight blight and improve infrastructure like roads and sidewalks.  Some money will pay to weatherize homes and help the city set up a self-insurance fund.

About $2 million will go to a rainy day fund, which is something Council President Kathy Graziano said could help in the future.

"So if the state gives us less money, if we take in less money in taxes or if Mother Nature sends us a really bad snow storm or hurricane that we can't deal with, we have a fund we can tap into," she explained.

But Councilman Bruce Tyler maintained the money should go even further into the future.

"It is critical that we take some of this money and move it into the long term retirement system, as opposed to doing these short term feel good items," he said.

Many council members didn't like the way the plan was handled.  They wanted more time to fully vet the mayor's ideas.

"It breaks my heart because I do not think that putting this paper off another two weeks is going to hurt any of us," said Councilwoman Reva Trammell.

Graziano explained the mayor's administration wants the paper passed quickly in advance of a trip to New York.  There, Richmond representatives are hoping the spending plan for the extra money will give the city a better bond rating.  That could help with financing for future projects.

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