City Council vote on meals tax hike set for Feb.12

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 2/9/2018, 5:47 p.m.
Proving more adept at corralling a majority of City Council votes on a big issue than former Mayors L. Douglas ...
The Rev. A. Lincoln James Jr., pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, talks up his support for the meals tax at a City Hall press conference Tuesday. Mayor Levar M. Stoney, left, listens as 17 other ministers and Sheriff Antionette V. Irving, right, demonstrate the community support for his plan to generate money to build several new schools. Ron Carrington/Richmond Free Press

Mr. Addison said he wants to take this step on behalf of children and believes that other options for raising money for school construction can be considered when the council takes up the 2018-19 budget next month.

Mr. Jones said he needs new schools now to relieve the overcrowding in his district. “This is not the answer,” he said, but “it is one small piece to get the ball rolling.”

The city’s financial advisers have told the mayor and the council that Richmond used up its debt capacity building a new jail and four new schools in the past five years. Between 2023 and 2028, the city is expected to gain $320 in new debt capacity as a result of paying off a portion of its current debt.

But until then, the city’s credit card is maxed out, in their view.

Several council members warn that rushing the meal tax hike through will cost the mayor and others community goodwill.

“People understand when they don’t win the vote. They don’t understand if they’re not allowed to voice their opinion,” said Ms. Gray, who noted that her district also has a 100-year-old school building and others plagued with troubles that might not be addressed for years to come.

However, at least one person is content Mayor Stoney is taking a tough approach.

“The mayor has put himself in a box,” said Paul Goldman, leader of the School Modernization Committee that put the school construction issue on the front burner and pushed the mayor into initiating a plan.

“He has told the public there is only one way to go — raise taxes,” said Mr. Goldman, who successfully put a referendum on the November ballot that was approved by 85 percent of voters.

The referendum, which is now before the General Assembly, called on the mayor to deliver a fully funded plan. The current tax plan appears to have been the mayor’s response.

Mr. Goldman said Wednesday that he would roll out his proposal to use current funds to pay for school construction funding ahead of council’s scheduled vote next week.

He said his proposals would promote “a shared sacrifice” and show what could be done “if building new schools is the No. 1 priority.”