Richmond city budget estimates down $30M

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

Posted by Colby Rogers

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Revenue projections from the Richmond City budget could fall $30 million short of expectations for the next year.

Rayford Harris, the city Budget Director, has worked on 15 budgets for Richmond. He says this year's is one of the toughest he's ever faced.

"There's a tough road ahead. There's going to be some very tough choices," Harris said. "You're looking at all agencies across the board. It's nearly impossible not for any agency to feel some pain in this budget."

Real estate assessments on homes in the city are expected to drop by as much as 10 percent next year - an estimated $18 million loss for the city.

Meanwhile, car values have already dropped, sinking personal property tax revenue by about $2 million.

The sales tax is also down by about $1 million. Because fewer people are staying in Richmond, lodging tax revenues are down by $400,000.

The meal tax collected at restaurants has dropped by an estimated $700,000. Business at Buz and Ned's BBQ on N. Boulevard is holding steady, but most in the restaurant world can tell that consumers are holding back.

"I see it. I talk to my friends all the time," said owner Buz Grossberg. "Their sales are down, and I'm sure it's going to have a major impact on all the taxes."

Richmond City Council and the mayor are planning to keep the real estate tax at a $1.20.

City Hall is already on a hiring freeze - and it looks like vacant positions will have to stay that way. But as far as cuts go, everything is on the table.

"We need to keep our service level up, we need to be more efficient. We need to be looking at ways that we can provide these services that would be more cost-effective," said Richmond City Council president Kathy Graziano.

Mayor Dwight Jones will present his budget to the Council on March 27, giving Richmond residents and workers a better idea of what kind of cuts could be happening at City Hall.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.