Richmond elected officials always complain that the city doesn’t have the money for priorities like schools and roads. They always say that the only way schools and roads will get better is if we raise taxes.
This is just not true.
If it was true then how did the city find money for the following:
- $33 million for Stone Brewing
- $4.5 million for 17th Farmers Market
- $4+ million for Monroe Park
- $3 million for Kanawha Plaza
- $4.6 for the Main Street Station Shed (millions more for operating costs)
- $10 million for the Redskins training camp
- $1+ million on outside advisors for Navy Hill
And millions more on other pet projects and paid out in overtime.
By the end of Stoney’s tenure, the city will have spent almost $219 million worth of growth since he came into office. Even after the COVID adjustments, the FY2021 budget is about $77.5 million more than the budget when he took office. There is plenty of money, it just isn’t being spent wisely. $100 million would have been enough to fix every poor and fair rated street in the city. The other $119 million would have been enough to pay cash for about 4 new elementary schools.
The Department of Public Utilities spent $840,000 on advertising. The city never bothered to bill for elevator inspections they did costing the city $1 million. I personally found someone who had previously been arrested in 2008 for stealing $70,000 worth of gas from the school system who is now working for the Department of Public Works clocking over 2,000 hours of overtime. Why is this allowed to happen?
My favorite question is, “why?”
That is the question I will ask about every line-item of spending as I make my way through the Richmond City budget.
Why was this purchase made? Why did you choose this supplier/vendor? Why was this a good purchase when thought of in the context of providing first-rate services for residents?
I will turn the budget upside down so that the priorities of schools, roads, and basic services come first. Then we will work our way down the list funding the initiatives that uplift our people and neighborhoods. Then if there is money left when we reach the bottom, we will have community conversations about how we will use that money. Do we use the surplus to lower taxes such as the water rates, meals tax, or BPOL taxes, or do we use the money for these special projects like the ones listed above?
It is time the city finally has a priority based budget where our money is used intelligently, efficiently, and actually on services for residents.