City surplus shrinks

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/25/2018, 6 a.m.
The city’s end-of-year surplus is a little smaller. Richmond City Council has been notified that an initial September projection that ...

The city’s end-of-year surplus is a little smaller.

Richmond City Council has been notified that an initial September projection that $13.5 million was unspent at the close of fiscal year 2018 on June 30 was too generous.

According to the latest figures released last week, City Hall ended the year with a $12.5 million surplus, or about $57 per city resident. The final figure will be confirmed when the city’s annual audit is completed, expected early in November.

Based on recommended commitments, the council could wind up with only $263,533 from the surplus to spend as it chooses.

The council is to meet 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, to finalize action on using the surplus.

As it stands now, retired city employees will not benefit, despite hopes that some of the surplus could be directed to a cost-of-living adjustment in their pensions.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney pledged in March that if the city ended fiscal year 2018 with a surplus, he would “propose a budget amendment to use a portion of that surplus to fund a 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment for our retirees.” But that COLA is not on the mayor’s list of recommendations.

Instead, the Stoney administration and the council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee are recommending a big chunk of the surplus, $5.38 million, be spent to eliminate deficits in two funds related to legal work involving the City Attorney’s Office.

The deficits started building in 2014, but kept being ignored, city officials said. City officials now say the negative balances have become too large and need to be dealt with.

The committee also joined the mayor in recommending that $2.57 million be added to the city’s rainy day funds and followed the administration’s recommendation to put $250,000 into a fund for retiree benefits other than pensions. Another $2 million is recommended to go into a fund to pay for capital improvements.

And $2 million is earmarked to go to the Richmond Retirement System to provide additional investment dollars to support pensions, under an amendment that 5th District Councilman Parker C. Agelasto won approval for a year ago.

If the council agrees with the commitments for handling the surplus that came out of committee, that would leave $263,533.

Mayor Stoney is recommending that the money be assigned to a special purpose: Employee compensation, but he has not told the council who would get the money.

Seventh District Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille, chair of the Finance Committee, sought to direct $100,000 to marketing for businesses in Shockoe Bottom that have been damaged by the slow-paced redevelopment of the 17th Street Farmers’ Market. The work was supposed to be finished in May. The revamped market is officially set to reopen in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

However, three committee members objected, and that proposal did not move on, leaving the full council to make the decision on the use of the money.