Richmonders respond to mayor’s proposed budget at community forum

Richmond mayor takes budget pitch to community

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond’s mayor is taking his push to raise real estate taxes and create a cigarette tax to the people who would be impacted.

Tuesday night was the first of four community input sessions where Richmond residents could weigh in on the proposed budget that City Council will approve over the next few months. Quite a few people agreed with the reasons Richmond needs more money, but there are differences when it comes to how to get there.

“We cannot cut ourselves down to the bone, which we’ve done already and expect the same level of service for each and every neighborhood and each and every resident, just can’t do it,” Mayor Levar Stoney said to the crowd.

He’s calling on a 50 cent tax on cigarettes and for homeowners to pay the amount before the recession hit: $1.29 for every $100 assessed on your property.

"I’m concerned that with all of this money nothing is really being done to shift the injustice of where money goes and who gets the priority for good services, good schools, good everything,” one person said to the mayor.

"If you’re going to tax us this high, it needs to be going to schools and not as (some) sort of a Trojan horse to cover up the fact that the Coliseum is going to be essentially what this pays for,” another said.

Stoney says nothing in his proposed budget is connected to the separate Coliseum deal he's pitching.

Instead, he says it’s about getting more money to focus on two priorities: schools and streets.

The mayor says it costs 40 percent more to educate a child who lives in poverty - something other localities may not have to do at the level Richmond does. Then there’s crime. Superintendent Jason Kamras says since he’s been here, six students have died and 20 have been shot.

"And the next day we ask them to come to school and learn to read and do math and art and music and here's the thing, they can if we give them what they need to be successful,” Kamras said.

"My kids have gone to the schools. I’ve graduated from the schools. I’ve been a part of many, many marches for the schools but I’m not sold on all of this yet,” another person said to the mayor.

Less than half of RPS schools are accredited - 19 out of 44 to be exact. Stoney says his plan is an investment in turning the tide.

If you missed Tuesday’s community forum, here is a list of the remaining ones.

Thursday, March 21

7 – 8:30 p.m.

Southside Community Center

6335 Old Warwick Rd.

Wednesday, March 27

6:30 – 8 p.m.

Thomas Jefferson High School

4100 W. Grace St.

Tuesday, April 2

6:30 – 8 p.m.

Northside Family YMCA

7207 Old Brook Rd.

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