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Mayor Stoney: There will be ‘hell to pay’ if funds from meals tax increase aren’t used properly

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said there will be "hell to pay" if any council person ever opted to use the money raised from the recently passed meals tax increase on anything but improvements to the city's schools.

His comment came after Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell, and several city residents, expressed what a lot of long-time Richmonders said they feel: a lack of confidence in their leaders to do what they say they're going to do.

"People were saying they do not trust the school board, they do not trust the mayor, they do not trust city council to do the right thing by these children," Trammell said before council voted 7-2 Monday to pass the meals tax increase.

"We also share the concern that our politicians won't find the rest of the money after this, or won't spend it where it should be spent. And that makes sense that we all agree on those things, because we've all lived in Richmond," a city resident told council prior to the vote Monday night.

The concerns came up at a city council meeting Monday night where council passed a 1.5 percent increase in the city's meals tax to raise money for improving the city's schools.

That would bump the meals tax at Richmond restaurants and catering businesses from 6 to 7.5-percent. The total tax, combined with sales tax, would go from 11.3 to 12.8-percent.

Many wanted the council to ensure the money raised would definitely go toward school improvements, but Mayor Stoney said that's just not possible.

Mayor Levar Stoney

"The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow for one to bound the hands of a future city council," Stoney said.

Still, he said every citizen will be able to keep track of the money raised by the meals tax, and how it's being spent in quarterly reports made to council and an annual report online.

"You will also be able to see this in a line item of the comprehensive annual financial report," Stoney said.

Plus, he had strong words for any current our future council member who tries to move that money elsewhere.

"I dare any person, any council person, to take that money out, I dare them," Stoney said before adding "and I'll say this, if they do there will be hell to pay."

Council President Chris Hilbert said if he discovers that any of the money is not being spent on schools, he will immediately attempt to repeal the tax increase.