Hopewell official has serious concerns regarding city finances

HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — One of Hopewell’s top officials tells 8News she has serious concerns over the city’s finances.

The city’s vice mayor said the city can’t borrow money and has been spending money it doesn’t have. Meanwhile, the city manager says their finances are strong and doesn’t believe there is any reason to panic.

For the past two fiscal years, the City of Hopewell has been behind the eightball when it comes to their budget. Tuesday night, city council was given 17 pages of a budget approved a few months ago, with nearly every page facing corrections.

“The budget resolution that we were given last night was not what we saw four months ago,” Vice Mayor Jasmine Gore said.

Gore said that’s just one of many issues facing the city. Every year, localities are required to submit financial reports to the state. Those reports are given to credit agencies, which then rate localities based on their ability to repay a loan.

“We’re fighting to make sure their tax dollars are spent appropriately, we’re fighting to make sure our city doesn’t fall into the same situation as some of our peers.”

Hopewell is one of two cities in Virginia that hasn’t handed in a report for last year, and the city just recently handed its report from two years ago. As a result, credit agencies have pulled their ratings for Hopewell, citing things like ‘continued financial pressure.’ The city was just one of five localities in the country that had its ratings pulled by credit rating agency Moody in August.

“We are kind of in a standstill from being able to borrow money,” Gore said.

Gore said that since the city can’t borrow money, some priorities have had to be put on hold.

“Renovate a building to create a space for youth to be able to go in and do after school activities; we are no longer able to do that because we cannot borrow the money,” Gore explained.

The city manager, meanwhile, said council has always been aware of where money is going. He says when the city switched from an older financial program to a newer one, it delayed their ability to submit reports to the state. He said they have over $4 million in the rainy day fund, and Hopewell has never been late or missed any payments, saying the city is financially sound and stable.

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