Dollars and sense
3/11/2017, 10:02 a.m.
Mayor Levar M. Stoney and the Richmond City Council may find themselves trying to make bricks without straw this year.
The $681 million budget plan the new mayor announced for 2017-18 tries to do the best it can to address an overwhelming score of needs with few new resources.
We are pleased that Mayor Stoney is putting his money where his mouth is. He campaigned on a platform to improve education in the city. His budget plan dedicates $6.1 million in increased funding for the city’s public schools. Although he and the Richmond School Board members understand that is not enough, it marks a start in boosting teacher salaries, one of the many issues the school system has been grappling with as it works to retain professionals in a system marred by aging and worn-out facilities.
The mayor’s capital budget proposal includes only $1.6 million for school maintenance, a paltry amount given that school building needs are more in the hundreds of millions of dollars for replacement of leaky roofs and old heating and air conditioning systems, among other necessities.
With public safety a critical need in the city, Mayor Stoney has proposed $1.3 million for salary increases for police and firefighters.
We cannot argue with any of these planned expenditures, and we hope that all parties will continue on a harmonious path to approving a spending plan for the city.
While transparency is paramount to ensuring that harmony, we remind Mayor Stoney, members of City Council and the School Board and schools Superintendent Dana T. Bedden that accountability is just as important. We want to make sure the dollars are going where they are supposed to be — even the small amounts.
We again call on City Council to strike the allowance for severance pay for nonclassified employees. The city paid more than $243,000 in severance to four people who served on the staff of former Mayor Dwight C. Jones and three others who were aides to former City Council members. The city should see some savings if that is eliminated.
And we urge the mayor to continue with his forensic analysis of city spending by department to eliminate what is unnecessary. Such an analysis is sorely needed for Richmond Public Schools, and we urge School Board members to incorporate that into their 2017-18 spending plan.
Already, Mayor Stoney has gotten rid of the executive protection team former Mayor Dwight C. Jones used that took Richmond police officers away from their regular duties in the city to accompany him.
Smart move, Mr. Mayor. You are leading by example. The people need to see that. Where the head goes, the body will follow.