RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney unveiled his proposed FY23 budget in a virtual presentation before city council Friday afternoon.
Stoney's budget for the upcoming year comes with $836-million price tag, an over eight-percent increase from last year's budget, and includes funding and salary increases in several areas.
"This budget and the accompanying $627-million five-year Capital Improvement Plan, makes critical new investments that reflect the priorities of a city that believes in high quality public education for our children, the value of investing in the city employees from service, the importance of maintaining quality streets and city services, access to affordable housing, and the memorialization of our city's full and true history.," said Stoney.
Stoney's budget maintained level funding for Richmond Public Schools, something he said he would do if the school board failed to pass a budget by his deadline. However, he did put in an additional $15-million for RPS, but said city council would have to vote to release it to them.
"This is enough funding in my budget proposal for RPS to provide raises for hardworking teachers, cover administrative needs, and support its efforts to improving learning outcomes for our kids," added Stoney.
As for pay increases, Stoney's proposed budget would give 5% increases for non-sworn city staff and raises the wages of 151 low-wage workers that, if approved, would mean no city employee makes less than $17 an hour.
Stoney also recommended a $17.4 million plan to increase pay for the city's police and fire departments that would see 95% of staffers in those departments seeing a 10% increase.
The mayor also wants to raise starting pay for police from $44,000 to $51,000 per year, which would put the River City above Chesterfield and on par with Henrico County.
"We said we needed a new pay plan, we’re getting a new pay plan," Brendan Leavy, the president of the Richmond Coalition of Police (RCOP), said in a statement. "We said we needed it to be fully funded and implemented July 2022 and it will as long as it passes through city council. The pay plan is not perfect and the city administration acknowledged that too, so we will continue working on it so we don't get caught in the same predicament that what has currently transpired. It is a good step in the right direction.”
While Stoney said there are no tax increases in this budget, there would be increases to utilities. The annual gas rate would increase by 4-percent, water would increase by 3.5-percent, sewer costs would increase by 5.25-percent.
There would also be an 8.75-percent increase for stormwater abatement calls and monthly parking would increase by $5 per month, while hourly parking would increase from $1.50 to $2 per hour.
Stoney also introduced a a $627 million five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which includes money for transportation projects, the Heritage Campus at Shockoe Bottom, and planning for eventual new courts, police headquarters and city hall.
Other items highlighted by the mayor were increasing library funding to near-pre-pandemic levels and launching a new pilot program that would see park rangers in city parks.
"These rangers will not be armed, but will work with the Richmond police department," Stoney said. "The goal is to educate and ensure park guidelines are followed, such as having no littering or fireworks or unleashed dogs. So these valuable community assets remain safe and enjoyable for all who use them."
Stoney also highlighted money for mental health services and the Black History Museum, which is taking ownership of the city's confederate statues.
However, Stoney said the budget will not allow many new grants to non-profits in the city. They will instead focus on level funding or increases to existing programs.
"We will provide a supplement to our public defenders to match the salary supplement the city provides to our Commonwealth's attorneys," Stoney said. "We are also providing modest increases to our safety net providers who provide health care to our most vulnerable residents."
There will be a series of public hearings and council meetings before council members to make proposed amendments. The first meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 14 when the council will look at the school budget proposal.