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Richmond City Council finalizes budget, $5.5 million increase for schools

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City Council approved the City’s 2017 operating budget Friday night, which includes a final operating budget of $717.1 million for Richmond government.

The budget, which runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, includes 151.5 million for Richmond schools, an increase of $5.5 million in operating funds.

The remaining $4 million will go to capital improvement projects, which are long term and have a separate budget from year to year operations, school leaders said.

“Council is confident that this is a balanced budget that the current and a new Mayor of Richmond can manage effectively and efficiently and looks forward to working collaboratively with them to insure significant services are not jeopardized,” Richmond City Council said in a press release.

After an agreement was agreed upon last week, Richmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden said schools could still close and school bus routes could be cut because there is still a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

Richmond School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne said closing schools would be a last resort, and that cutting academic programs across the city would be the result if closures don't happen.

Armstrong High School and four elementary schools were proposed to help close the then, $18 million budget gap.

Here are the highlights of Friday’s approved budget:        

  • Richmond City Council establishing a balanced operating budget of $717.1 million for Richmond Government. This Includes $151.5 million for the City's local contribution to Richmond Public Schools funding, an increase of $5.5 million.
  • Adoption of a $68.7 million Capital Improvements Program for FY 2017 that includes $9.0 million for school maintenance, $4.0 million more than originally proposed.
  • Richmond City Council increasing the General Fund contribution to the Richmond Public Schools Operating Budget by $5.5 million over what was proposed and reallocating an additional $4 million over what was proposed in Capital Funds to pay for school building maintenance. Of the monies, Richmond City Council budgeted $4,974,906 toward Richmond Public Schools Teacher Pay Decompression; $200,000 to re-open Richmond Public Schools Summer Hill/Ruffin Road Elementary School operations; and, an additional $347,346 for general Richmond Public Schools. Proposed Richmond General Fund contribution represent an estimated 54 percent of the proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Richmond Public Schools total General Fund budget.
  • Richmond City Council investment in the Richmond Department of Finance for additional staff to help collect delinquent tax revenue.
  • Richmond City Council keeping the Richmond Real Estate Tax at its lowest tax rate in 35 years, at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value and not increasing Richmond Meals Tax Rates.
  • Richmond City Council restored vacancy funding for the Richmond Police Department, Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services, and the Richmond Department of Social Services.
  • Richmond City Council helping to fix $750,000 in lost annual revenue by updating the Real Estate Tax collection process to include pro-rating the assessments of new construction so that, rather than at the end of the construction, projects would be assessed mid-year.
  • Richmond City Council preventing a proposed increase in the fee for business licenses for Richmond businesses making less than $100,000 a year in gross revenue.
  • Richmond City Council providing funding for needed flood mitigation efforts in Battery Park, overdue streetscape and sidewalk beautification efforts for a business park on Jefferson Davis Highway, and added $300,000 for completion of the new  T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Pedestrian Bridge.