PETERSBURG, Va (WRIC) — The City of Petersburg has outlined a plan to fix the city’s money problems. The city’s consultant group made recommendations at a Special City Council Meeting Tuesday night.
The plan includes the following:
- $4.1 mllion cut from Schools
- Continue the across the board 10% pay cut
- Close one of the city’s four firehouses
- A hiring freeze in the police department plus move detectives to patrol
- Closing the 3 city museums and 2 tourism centers
- Reduce jail population by 15%
- Reduce funding for 20 nondepartmental agencies by $230,000
- Consolidate the city’s planning, economic development and community development into one department
- Reduce library hours and spending by 25%
- Raise cigarette tax from 10 cents per pack to 90 cents
- An improved assessment of industrial and business properties
- Raise the meals tax from 6 percent to 7.5 percent
- Raise the personal property tax from $4.40 to $4.90 per $100 of assessed value
- Raise the lodging tax from 6% to 10%
- Reduce funding for the city’s 11 parks and recreational facilities
- A reduction of holidays for city employees from 12 to 10 days
- A reduction of the cost of health insurance
- De-funding the city’s baseball franchise, the Petersburg Generals.
If council approves, the actions could bring in $12.5 million in revenue and savings for fiscal year 2017.
“The plan was very much imperative for the city to meet it’s short term, it was data driven,” said Dironna Moore Belton, Petersburg’s acting City Manager.
Also in attendance was State Senator Rosalyn Dance, who called this plan a hail marry.
“The biggest concern for me is education, when were cutting education at a time where we still don’t have our schools accredited. But, they had to do what they did tonight and it was a shock,” said Dance.
Many had major concerns, including some who are worried about cutting the Hispanic Liaison position.
“We really need it, we need the help,” said Elisa Lara, a Petersburg resident.
Others realize tough times call for drastic measures.
“I am supporting it because it has to be done and there is no easy answers or solutions,” said another resident, Barb Rudolph.
Senator Dance says shes willing to fight for her hometown on the state level, but needed tonight to show that city leaders are serious about fixing things.
“The city has to show the will to fix it,” she said. “I can fight with that if I have something to fight with. I still believe in my city.”
“The city has to show the will to fix it,” she said. “I can fight with that if I have something to fight with. I still believe in my city.” — Rosalyn Dance
The consultants have also recommended closing a fire station. One firefighter, who asked 8News to conceal his identity, says closing a fire house as a way help to dig the city out of $18 million d of debt will be a disaster.
“It is going to be disastrous to the people that we serve and protect because which one are you going to close, number one. What criteria are we using to say this neighborhood is better off without a fire station?” said the firefighter.
Per the city’s consultants, recommendations to shut the doors of a fire house could save $657,000.
“Here we are getting ready to go into storm season which we are already in that, but fire season, and you are going to close a fire station down,” the firefighter added.
So, which fire house is likely to close?
“The one that they are probably going to close is going to be Company No. 5,” the anonymous firefighter explained.
Residents say the possibility of losing a neighborhood fire station makes them uneasy.
“It makes me very uncomfortable,” said Carolyn Stith. “If we need them who do we have to come to see what is happening.”
Firefighters say stations are already having trouble responding to fires.
“We are barely making it now to run the calls that we run,” the firefighter said.
More than 100 people currently work for the Petersburg Fire Department and the city has a total of four fire stations.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.