RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney was all smiles Tuesday morning, just hours after Richmond City Council approved the meals tax increase.
“I’m excited and I’m happy,” Stoney said. “This has been probably the most consequential vote on public education we’ve had in the city in a number of decades.”
City Council voted 7-2 Monday night to increase the meals tax 1.5 percent, going from 6 to 7-percent July 1. Almost an hour and a half of public comment was given Monday night; some in support of the increase while others spoke in opposition, but Stoney says the vote was a win for the children.
“What you saw last night was a demonstration not only of the administration of the city, but a city that values its children,” Stoney said.
Stoney greeted students at George Mason Elementary School Tuesday morning, which is one of the schools that will benefit from the tax increase. Stoney says the tax is necessary because the General Assembly has not stepped up.
“We should not wait around on the General Assembly,” Stoney said. “They have not provided us with the sort of funding necessary to tackle these issues in a number of years. The city has more than stepped up.”
Although the tax increase has been passed, officials with Richmond City Public Schools know their is still work to be done.
“I think this was just an incredibly important first step,” Richmond Public School Superintendent, Jason Kamras, said. “We have a lot more to do. We’re going to need to raise more revenue to take care of all of our schools.”
Chris A. Hilbert, City Council President, released a statement promising to repeal the tax if any of the money does not go to Richmond City Public Schools.
Richmond Public Schools released the following statement:
“Last night the City of Richmond came together to demonstrate that our students matter. We would like to thank you for making the bold decision to address the facilities needs of Richmond Public Schools. The show of support from our teachers, parents and even students at last night’s meeting is a great indicator for the future of RPS.
The people who live and dine in the City of Richmond are the same families that we want to remain here versus moving to the surrounding counties in search of a better educational environment for their children. The same families that choose Richmond Public Schools, are the same families that will choose to patron the restaurants in the city, now even more so in the spirit of supporting RPS.
We realize that this is only the first step to getting our schools to where they need to be and we are committed to tackling the many issues that we face throughout the school district such as comprehensive districtwide rezoning, improving our academic practices and meeting accreditation standards. As the work of our strategic planning process gets underway, we plan to address those challenges head-on and continue the tough conversations about our facilities needs.
The passage of the Meals Tax proposal sends a strong statement that providing equitable educational opportunities for all of our students is a priority. Whether you are a restaurant owner, an educator, a parent, a City Councilmember, or a citizen it is important to remember that educating our students is a collaborative effort and we are all RPS!”