RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is defending his proposed meal tax hike for Richmond Public Schools funding...but he is also not ruling out even more tax increases.
Even if City Council approves the mayor's meal tax hike, there's still a huge gap between what the city has for school facilities, and what it needs. That "need" might come out of your pocket.
Stoney delivered his State of the City Address on Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Middle School.
"I can confidently stand here today before and say that the state of our city is strong," said Stoney during the address.
But where we're going is expensive. Stoney vowed to clean up City Hall, and he ordered, then executed a top-to-bottom performance review - 110 pages long.
NBC12 asked the mayor if this review has started saving Richmond any money yet, and he could not give a number.
"There are obviously even more ways, and we're working every day to be more efficient. As I said in the speech, inefficiency is immoral," said Stoney.
In the short term, Stoney wants to raise the meals tax 1.5 percent, meaning you'll be taxed nearly 13 percent to go out to eat in the city.
But wait! There could be more - Stoney says a cigarette tax or another tax might not be out of the question.
"We've talked with all of our stakeholders in the city, whether that means those who are in corporations or those who are in the restaurant industry as well, we've had conversations and no one is above the possibility of us looking for revenue," said Stoney.
Hotels and lodging is out of the question, though - at least to fund Richmond schools.
Lodging taxes are already set aside from the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
But wait - remember in November, when 85 percent of you voted to approve a referendum that said the mayor would have to fund schools without raising taxes?
Well, that might not mean anything.
That referendum still has to be approved by the state General Assembly, and it's not really moving. Also, the referendum technically prohibits the mayor from raising taxes...but the mayor doesn't even do that. He just suggests it. Council raises taxes.
So don't be surprised if the meals tax is just the beginning.
"What I dislike more than taxes is the fact that kids are going to crumbling schools every day, that kids have to wear coats in their classroom, that kids have to go to school in a trailer. No one wants that for their city," said Stoney.
Earlier this year, Stoney gave himself a "B+" for his first year on the job. Within his first year, he battled a massive snowstorm, pothole issues, crumbling city hall infrastructure, as well as the hot topic about the city's Confederate monuments.
In September, demonstrators took to the city streets protesting for and against keeping the monuments. The mayor had to ensure the Confederate monument protest didn't go awry, after a violent, similar demonstration in Charlottesville.
He created the Monument Avenue Commission, which is currently hashing out the future of the statues.
Also during his first year, over 60 homicides took place in the city, marking 2017 the deadliest in a decade.
Here is the complete State of the City Address as prepared: