A black woman wearing glasses, red sweater and hair in braids, sitting in front of the US flag

Richmond Council Considers How to Spend Budget Surplus

A black woman wearing glasses, red sweater and hair in braids, sitting in front of the US flag

Richmond City Council member Doria Robinson questioned Tuesday whether the council could reduce the workload of the public works department. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

Council members and staff said it was “a new day” in Richmond as they looked to solve a unique problem — how to spend the budget surplus. 

On Tuesday, the Richmond City Council allocated $14.5 million in its budget and set aside $8 million in additional funding for many capital improvement projects. Only $400,000 of the project funding will immediately be designated for a certain project. 

According to a staff report, most revenue streams “are trending as expected or better,” which includes some of the largest increases coming from the utility users tax and licenses, permits & fees. Expected revenues that are not meeting projections are “more than offset” by how well the UUT is doing. 

Of the capital improvement projects that staff asked to fund, only three were immediately funded with the requested amounts. Council members requested that other projects be prioritized based on compliance and deadlines with laws and grants, and the quality of life, health and safety of the community. 

Three urgent projects were funded from the $400,000 and include Fire Station 63’s roof and the closeout of the street improvement projects at Nevin Avenue and 37th Street. 

Council member Doria Robinson, who proposed the criteria, wondered if the council could reduce the workload for staff in the public works department by having them focus on a few projects before moving on to others. 

Robinson said the progress made on the traffic calming project, which was approved in 2022 and targets 18 locations around the city, “was difficult” to hear. From that project, three locations have completed construction for speed humps. The remaining locations are mostly in the design phase and will construct sideshow deterrents, signage, rapid flashing beacons and speed humps.  

>>>Read: Richmond Will Try to Make Streets Safer

Vice Mayor Claudia Jimenez agreed with Robinson and acknowledged the workload the public works department has to deal with, but said the progress made on the traffic calming project was “not acceptable” and accountability was lacking. 

“Great work, but also you feel my frustration…because we need more information,” said Jimenez. 

>>>Read: Richmond Takes Steps to Curb Traffic Collisions

Jimenez said a timeline to track when a project was to be finished to see how long the funding would be held would be useful. Holding funding for several years for a project instead of using it to fund services or projects that would immediately benefit the community was hard for her to decide, she said. 

The progress of other capital improvement projects, including those that were considered at the meeting, are now available online for the public to view. A beta version of the dashboard is available on the capital improvement program’s webpage and will be updated at the beginning of every month, according to the department. 

City staff will return in April with the prioritized project list for the council to review, and again in May with a proposed accountability plan for the projects.

No Comments

Post A Comment

Enjoy our content?