Richmond City Council passes unbalanced budget that includes significant reductions to city services

RPD's summer crime prevention fair Saturday offers food, fun and signatures for fix-it tickets

Richmond City Council passed an unbalanced budget Tuesday that leaves the city with a $6 million deficit and includes significant cuts to the police, public works, fire, library and recreation departments.

The budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which passed council by a 6-1 vote, includes about $140 million in expenses about $134 million in revenues.

Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay believes future developments could help close that deficit, including more concessions from labor unions, an expected increase in tax revenues next fiscal year and more than $3 million in tax revenue from the $1 billion Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project, which is facing approval at the Planning Commission this month.

The city can also bank on the $12.25 million in its reserves if future deficit-reduction developments don’t pan out.

But the cuts that were made in the passed budget will be felt.

The Police Department, cut by $2.3 million, will reduce mandatory minimum staffing levels for patrolling neighborhood beats. Police Chief Chris Magnus said it will take longer for officers to respond to low-priority calls. Fewer officers will also be available to monitor special events such as festivals and protests and neighborhood council meetings, and there will also be a substantial reduction in the Closed Circuit Television monitoring program, aka the monitoring of surveillance cameras in the city.

The Fire Department will not be able to purchase certain equipment, what Lindsay called a “short-term” solution as equipment will eventually need to be replaced, and must reduce its overtime budget by $1.2 million

Folks headed to Richmond’s libraries will have to wait in longer lines, and also wait longer for new and returned materials to reach the shelves. Library programs will also be reduced, Lindsay said.

The recreation department, losing $211,000, will have to reduce after-school programming as well as weekend sports programs. Residents will have limited access to the fitness and spots gyms and decreased hours of operation for all community centers and the aquatic facility.

Lindsay also transferred $500,000 from the gas tax, which was meant for road maintenance, to bring down the deficit, and about 30 public sector jobs will be reduced through layoffs and attrition.

Lindsay said the budget deficit is due to a reduction in several tax revenues, including an unexpected decrease in property tax revenues that resulted from the Chevron Richmond refinery fire of 2012.