Even in tough economic times there's some good news for Richmonders.
The mayor's budget plan was unveiled Tuesday night. There are no job cuts, no furloughs and no new taxes included in the spending plan.
It totals more than $760 million in spending on city services the public sees and feels every day. There are so many services, finding any savings wasn't easy.
"We started the budget process with a gap of more than $30 million, a $30 million gap between our needs and our revenues," Mayor Dwight Jones explained.
But still, when it comes to the break down, much of it looks good for taxpayers. After many complaints, in next year's plan, the mayor is reducing the water base fee by almost half. He has also unveiled a plan that rewards Richmonders for conserving and using less water.
If your current monthly base fee is $49.40, next fiscal year you'll be paying just $26.11. That of course is before you use a drop of water. Here's a more realistic picture: if your total monthly bill now is $53.62, in this plan for those same services you'll be paying $35.14.
The mayor also included a 2% raise for all city employees.
"Two percent with a $30 million gap is the best we could do," Jones added. "The fact that we did not give a raise is not because we did not want to give raises. We have wanted to give raises. We were just not able to give raises."
That increase is a big deal because it has been several years since any of those workers, including police officers and firefighters who have been lobbying the hardest, have seen bumps in their pay.
"When you really look at it, I think it's difficult to say one group deserves a raise over anybody else," said City Council President Charles Samuels, who is pleased to see the citywide raise.
Another important thing citizens will notice when this budget goes into place is construction on streets and sidewalks. This next spending plan actually doubles the funding from the current fiscal year for those improvements.
This is not a done deal. Council members and the public did not discuss the plan Tuesday. A hearing is scheduled for that on April 8.
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