Richmond City Council is expected to give final approval Tuesday night to a city budget for the next fiscal year that balances the books, partly through the use of a half-cent sales tax increase previously earmarked for road improvements.
The $8 million windfall, known a Measure U, was approved by voters last fall. While it was marketed by supporters as way to improve Richmond’s failing infrastructure, the city left open the option that the funds could be used for other “essential services” if need be.
The $144.9 million general fund budget is a slight increase from the previous year. The budget calls for the elimination of 28 open positions and reduces expenditures across most major departments, including public works and the mayor’s office. A number of library assistants and a librarian position will also be eliminated.
Two major exceptions to the belt tightening are the police department, which will see its budget rise by $1 million, and the fire department, whose budget will jump $1.7 million, mostly to cover payroll expenses.
At its previous meeting, some council members expressed disappointment with the use of Measure U funds to balance the budget but appeared resolved to accept it as the best funding option available. Some money for road repairs could be acquired through the sale of Terminal 1 at Port Richmond, valued at $10 million.
Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times has criticized the budget proposal for not putting aside enough money to cover existing debts and liabilities. “While an improvement over the current year’s budget, this is not the structurally balanced plan City Manager Bill Lindsay had promised following last month’s substantial downgrade of Richmond’s bond rating,” the Times wrote.