RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond City Council was able to come to an agreement on balancing the city’s $758 million budget, Monday. The consensus comes after seven weeks of heated budget meetings, and the threat of council hiring an attorney to battle Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration.
Council members agreed to several of Stoney’s biggest spending initiatives, including an additional $18 million for schools, $16 million for street paving, and also funding for the state’s first eviction diversion program and expanding GRTC routes in the East End and Southside.
The council did not support the mayor’s proposed 9-cent property tax increase, so the rate will stay at $1.20.
A new 50-cent cigarette tax will go into effect, along with utility rate hikes on water and gas.
Last week, City Council moved to potentially hire their own attorney to face-off with Stoney’s administration, after it said it would not certify $9 million in future real estate tax revenue, which the council needed to balance the budget. This led to members of Stoney’s staff walking out of the meeting with City Council. Some council members called the move “unprecedented” and "childish. "
The situation calmed down today, as the administration agreed to certify most of the funds, giving council the funds it needed.
However, not all council members were on board with the cigarette tax and utility hikes. Council member Reva Trammell still has reservations about the impact those hikes will have on residents and businesses, particularly the the cigarette tax.
“I’m going to hold their feet to the fire because I want to know if it’s affected the businesses. And once it affects the businesses, the money doesn’t come in. If they move out of my district… that’s another abandoned building and employees gone,” said Trammell.
City Council decided to cut funds from future capital spending on things like bridge and building repairs, and also funding on vacant positions, to help balance the budget.
GRTC was also directed an extra $800,000 to expand routes, as the council realized it had a surplus after all of the back-and-forth.
City Council will take a final, official vote on the budget within the next two weeks.
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