Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has broken a major campaign promise with his latest budget proposal.
And the bad news for taxpayers is hiked rates and higher utility bills.
But during a public hearing, one councilwoman decided to call out Stoney from the podium.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney Under Fire for New Tax Hikes
Mayor Levar Stoney, a Democrat, has put forward a major budget proposal with a slew of new taxes that has stoked serious opposition from the city council.
Under the proposal, taxpayers would be paying $24 million more to the city treasury.
This includes a 50-cent tax on cigarettes and a 7.5% hike on real estate.
This comes just one year after the city passed an increased meals tax to fund city schools. According to Stoney, his administration now requires even more in taxes to keep schools at optimal funding.
“All I hear is opposition” Mayor Stoney said during an interview. “When we say no to this plan we are saying no to fully funding Richmond schools”.
City residents readily voiced their concerns over Stoney’s new tax hikes.
“I buy cigarettes every week, one pack every week or so…That’s wrong. Taxing people for no reason,” said local resident Jamar Alexander.
City Council members also opposed the hikes on grounds that Richmond already has the highest real estate tax rate in the area, even when compared to neighboring Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover.
On top of the taxes, Stoney also pushed a utility rate hike. This includes a 3.5% increase in natural gas bills and a $5 increase for water.
One motivation for the steep increases, Stoney shared, was the obligation Richmond has to sustain its city employee retirement funds.
“Stoney said health insurance and retirement benefits for city employees is increasing by $3 million. The city’s state mandated salary increase for certain employees will cost an additional $900,000. Medical care and food for inmates at the city jail is also going up by an additional $1.2 million. Stoney also said Public Works Department costs are also increasing by $1.2 million.” NBC 12 reports.
But the most lively moment came after Stoney finished his remarks.
Councilwoman Reva Trammell attacked Stoney’s tax hikes, scolding the Mayor by stating, “Mayor, you said that you were not going to raise taxes when you ran for mayor. How can you stand up here before all of us and do this to the people?”
Trammell then launched into an attack against Stoney’s tax hikes as the Democrat Mayor laughed from the audience.
“You can laugh all you want, but I’ll tell you right now… you won’t be laughing much longer because this is not funny what you’re doing to the people. You talk about the poor people… Why don’t you come out there and see them struggling to try to pay these real estate taxes, to try to pay these utilities.” Trammell said.
“I hope to God this is your last laugh”.
The Mayor declined to respond to the comments.
Councilwoman Kim Gray also joined in to explain that the city should cut the fat from Richmond’s budget.
“We have audits, we have comparative analysis… paperwork… that shows us we’re overspending in several departments,” said Gray. “So, I’d like to see us do some of the hard work of reducing our budget before we start proposing these enormous tax increases.”