Richmond mayor proposes tax cut amid needed school repairs

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond school leaders are reacting after Mayor Dwight Jones announced he's pushing for a real estate tax cut. The proposed break comes as school administrators say they need tens of millions of dollars for repairs. However, Jones says, the city must take a close look at which of those fixes are urgent, and which can potentially wait.

Mayor Dwight Jones proactively addressed the anticipated backlash from a proposed one-cent real estate tax cut.

"I know some may be questioning my call for a reduction in the real estate tax at a time when our schools are calling for more resources," said Jones.

Richmond public schools reported needing $35 million for immediate repairs. However, Jones questioned whether all the fixes needed to be accomplished ASAP.

"What I want the public to do is to make the distinction between important and urgent," continued Jones.

School Board Member Kim Gray says Richmond schools are in dire shape.

"We have systems that are failing on a regular basis and that's due to lack or replacement on our HVAC systems, our old boiler systems. We have cast iron pipes that are degrading underneath our schools," described Gray.

However, Jones asserted that he has an entire city to consider.

"The reality is that only about 11 percent of our population is being served by RPS," added Jones.

"Without investing in schools, 100 percent of city residents are impacted," rationalized Gray.

Jones's proposed real estate tax cut would drop the rate from $1.20 to $1.19. For a $100,000 home, that would be $10 dollars a year in savings. Jones says the city's assessment for real estate revenue is growing, and that the city should give back to residents when it can.
Meantime, city council members say lowering the city's real estate tax rate would happen anyway, because of state law. The mayor's proposal allows the city to set how low the tax will go.

"If we do nothing, law requires the tax rate to roll back to the previous amount, which in this case, I believe is almost $1.19," said Charles Samuels, president of the Richmond City Council.

Still, Samuels says the council will look at all options before a vote, next month.

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