RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — During Thursday’s State of the City address, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones made a statement that sent shockwaves across the river city.
“We can raise taxes,” the mayor said in reference to better funding schools. “Therefore, my plan is to explore with the members of city council the idea of an advisory referendum on the November ballot to determine whether the public wishes to raise taxes, and if so, by how much?”
Mayor Jones says the amount needed to fund the school system proposals could be as high as a 15 cent real estate tax hike.
“Such an increase is a major, major decision that the public should be deeply involved with,” Jones said.
So far, responses have not been in favor of the mayor’s idea.
“At this point I am not supportive of raising taxes,” said Council Member Charles Samuels.
“Not at this venture, no I would not,” School Board member Kim Gray added. “It is a huge amount of increase that is being tossed out there.”
Rather, council member Samuels says to fund schools, which he agrees is vital, city services first need to be looked at.
“The question becomes for raising taxes, ‘are we supplying core services?’ or, ‘are there a lot of niceities being supplied that aren’t necessary where they could actually be funneled instead to the schools?” Samuels questioned.
The mayor recommended an advisory referendum – not a binding referendum – so if it does pass a vote on the November ballot, council and the city would not be bound to the decision. Rather, it would simply be a recommendation from the citizens. School Board Member Kim Gray also says a look the city budget should come before taxes are raised.
“Our goal and our job is to find better efficiencies within the systems that we have,” she said. “I think that schools are entitled to a different share of that tax base that we are currently receiving and I think it’s a matter of setting priorities.”