Richmond council identifies budget cuts for next fiscal year

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Richmond City Hall

Richmond branch libraries may close, although probably not the main library, as part of a lengthy list of cuts to city services proposed by City Council in order to solve a $27 million budget deficit next fiscal year.

But even with the identified reductions, the city will still need to negotiate sizable savings from its employee unions, Mayor Tom Butt said in his e-forum newsletter Wednesday. 

The economic impacts of COVID-19 have shrunken tax revenue and significantly worsened the city’s budget situation, city officials say. On Tuesday, City Council went line-by-line through the list of possible areas where the city could reduce services to achieve savings. It then identified $19.5 million in reductions for next fiscal year that includes defunding festivals, imposing a hiring freeze and temporarily reducing or canceling recreation programs, which would mean no summer camps and special events this year like the July 3 fireworks show and the reduction of community center hours through December (a list of the identified savings is below, courtesy of the mayor).

The decisions are not yet official. The council has until July 1 to adopt a balanced budget for next fiscal year.

Even with these cuts, the council will be $7.5 million short to achieve a balanced budget for next fiscal year. Bridging that gap will not be possibly “without either union concessions or layoffs,” Mayor Butt said.

“It would require laying off about 40 positions to make up the $7.5 million,” the mayor said. “We are at the rock and the hard place.”

The mayor anticipates negotiations with unions to be a “lengthy process that potentially could extend far beyond June 30.”

“From a practical standpoint, they would require rather prompt union cooperation, which we are hoping to get,” he said.

On Tuesday, the unions proposed a savings plan that would include no layoffs while spending $5 million of the city’s $12 million reserve budget. The council doesn’t support reducing the city’s reserve, according to Butt, who says it would leave the city financially unprepared for future emergencies, like a COVID-19 resurgence, and would negatively affect the city’s bond rating, which would “cost us even more in the long run.”

To read the mayor’s full summary of the city’s budget situation, go here.