Richmond addresses report claiming $28.6 million missing

$8.1M still unaccounted for after Richmond internal report

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After an internal report sparked outrage and questioned if $28.6 million was missing from Richmond's finances, city officials provided an explanation for most of the missing money late Thursday.

The report, prepared by an analyst and staff members working for city council, openly questioned where millions of dollars could have been directed, and asked members of the city's finance committee to investigate.

"What happened to the remaining $28.6 million," the analyst writes near the end of the report. "Was it written-off?"

The multi-million dollar anomaly focused on unpaid taxes spanning about a year, with the report unable to identify what happened to millions over the past few months.

After news of the analysis broke, city officials said $20.5 million, most of the report's unaccounted money, paid bills in 2015. The explanation left $8.1 million without a specific dollar breakdown where the funds could be found.

Questions remained unanswered as to how a city analyst who tracks Richmond's finances on a monthly basis could not know the status of millions of dollars.

In an interview Friday, Councilmember Reva M. Trammell said the episode illustrates dysfunction within city hall, with city council staff lacking clarity on fiscal matters.

"It's a disgrace, I'm glad someone finally started asking questions where this money is going," Trammell said. "We need to account for every dollar so we can have enough people in public works, so we can have enough police officers back on our street."

The issue focused on delinquent taxes reportedly collected, versus delinquent taxes actually collected.

According to the analyst, Richmond reportedly collected $42.1 million in unpaid taxes by April 30, 2016. But in reality, the city collected only $13.5 million. The difference between the numbers was $28.6 million.

"Where did the $28.6 million go if not collected?" a staffer wrote in the margin of the analysis obtained by NBC12.

The stakes soared to find millions for the public school system, eventually leading to a showdown between Jones and city council members. The effort ended in an acrimonious budget battle two weeks ago, that left the school division without millions requested.

Months of threats to save money by shuttering schools, some which have operated since the days after the Civil War, brought scores of parents, teachers, and children to the city council chamber.

The city's final budget allocated $9 million in extra funding for school maintenance, compared to $40 million requested from the school division.

The school system asked for $16.2 million in additional funding for operational costs, while the budget allocated $5.5 million in extra funds.

The report also reveals that only half of Richmond's revenues for all of fiscal year 2016 have been collected, with only a month before the city's financial calendar ends June 30.

"Revenue collections for FY16 are less than collections during the same time period in FY15," the analysis states. "The [Finance] Committee may be interested in knowing why revenue collections are down from FY15 collection rates."

The report invites finance committee members to investigate if significant amounts of revenue have not yet been "posted to the system," or ask when additional revenue is expected to be collected.

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