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Roads, raises and water all part of mayor’s budget proposal

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Today Mayor Dwight Jones presented his administration’s proposed 2014-2015 budget to city council. The budget came in just over $760 million.

Major parts of the proposal include improving road conditions, reducing the base water rate and providing a raise for city employees.

Richmond roads certainly aren’t known for their smoothness.

“That's why you see $27 million in the budget for that,” says Jones. He’s proposing the city double its payment to pave problematic streets and also repair and even construct sidewalks in neighborhoods.

This comes after some residents were injured or killed in areas where sidewalks are lacking. According to the Department of Motor Vehicle, 120 pedestrians were injured in Richmond in 2011. “It is an aggressive plan. More aggressive than the city has had in many, many, many years,” says Jones.

While the city plans to pour more money into streets and roads, you may soon feel better about pouring water. Many residents have complained to the city about unusually high monthly water bills, and they pay some of the highest water rates in the country.

But that could change, after an extensive study proved waste and wastewater is used differently by both residents and businesses. Under his plan, people will pay based more on usage.

Mayor Jones called for a substantial reduction in those base rates (from the current base rate total of $49.40 to $26.11) as well as a move to charging for volumetric usage. This means that residents and businesses will pay more for higher usages of water and wastewater.

“Through this rate structure change, an estimated 50% of our residential households will see a decrease in their water and wastewater bills,” said Mayor Jones. “This action responds to the numerous voices, including mine, requesting a review of our structure and way to reduce the base charges.”

The mayor is also proposing a new assistance program for low income households. If a home owner qualifies they could be eligible for a $150 dollar yearly rebate on water and wastewater charges.

To pay those bills, city workers may also get a two percent raise if city council approves of Jones’ budget.  “When employees see us doing something, it’s good for morale,” says Jones.

This represents a $2.2 million net increase in full time salaries which will be effective in October 2013.

Mayor Jones also acknowledged the unknown impact of the Federal budget sequestration.

“Anticipated cuts can impact not just our City government, but also our city coffers as well, since many of our leading businesses depend on Federal contracts or Federal spending of one sort or another to sustain their workforce and payrolls.”

While the mayor's budget may sound lofty, he says, the city still has a lot of bills to pay and his plans could change based on the sequester, like funding the school system, the new jail,  $4 million to revitalize the riverfront, $2.5 million to transform some public housing communities and additional funding for the police department.

It is now up to city council members to decide what goes and what can stay.