RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond City Hall was packed Monday night, with people waiting in over-flow rooms for their chance to speak. Residents sounded off on proposed tax hikes and school funding, included in next year’s budget.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney proposed raising property and cigarette taxes in order to give Richmond Public Schools the extra $18.5 million the district has asked of the city. Besides fully funding schools, Stoney also directed $16 million for road and sidewalk repairs, along with other spending for affordable housing and expanding GRTC routes.
City Council members are still hashing out the budget, deciding through a long list of possible tax hikes, or cuts to other funding.
“I stand before you yet another budget year begging... yeah, begging for funding for our children in Richmond Public Schools,” said RPS teacher and parent Mary Gresham, at the podium. “It will allow some of that broken furniture in my child’s high school to be replaced.”
"It is our responsibility as community members to share our privilege,” said another RPS parent Rebecca Richardson. “We are poised to begin addressing the inequity in our schools and our city. Now is our chance to make real progress.”
Employees from Philip Morris wore red shirts with a direct message, “no more taxes.”
"If Richmond increases taxes, adult consumers will go right to one of the many retail stores just outside the city, hurting Richmond businesses,” said Philip Morris employee Reagan Scott, who says he represents a thousand factory workers at the company.
A representative from local convenience store Fas Mart, Mike Welsh, said the chain would be forced to shut down some of its ten stores in Richmond.
“Three or four of them would probably end up closing, and it would end up costing us jobs, as well,” said Welsh.
After weeks of budget sessions, the City Council is leaning towards approving the cigarette tax and utility hike, but council members appear to be divided on raising the real estate tax.
If they hold the real estate tax steady, City Council will have to decide from a list of possible other cuts on the table, including potentially slashing funding from affordable housing, tax relief for the elderly, GRTC and leaf collection.
The City Council will make a final vote on the budget in May.
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