Monday, March 29, 2010

Mayor Jones Proposes 2010-11 Budget

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Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones has delivered his budget plan to city council. There’s a projected $34 million shortfall in the $637.3 million proposal, but Jones says the city can’t and won’t tax its way out of the problem.

If approved by city council, the mayor's draft budget would also keep layoffs to a minimum. Out of a workforce of 4000, there would be 11 full layoffs and another six salaries saved through elimination of positions, unfilled vacancies and consolidation of existing human resources.

The city’s Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall said public safety departments like fire and police will take no hits. Schools will also be spared from cuts.

“They both have identified savings in their budgets," Marshall said.

"The savings will come from the way they manage vacancies during the next year. So, in terms of their authorized strength, it won’t go down. In terms of their street presence, it should not go down, but we don’t expect any diminish in the services from police or fire. And with schools, we gave them the amount they asked for, for their budget.”

Marshall said additional revenues will be generated through more vigorous prosecution of parking ticket scofflaws.

“There are a lot of delinquent parking fines that people have not paid," Marshall said. "We’re hiring a collection company to go after those delinquent fines. And the collection company actually does skip tracing across the country. So if you came here and went to school, got a ticket, and moved back to Connecticut -- we’re going to Connecticut to get our money.”

Jones said a major money saver will be twice-yearly collections of real estate taxes. The new system will keep the city from having to annually borrow and pay nearly $2 million interest on funds to continue operations.

“We have determined that about 50 percent of the people that pay property taxes have mortgages," Jones said. "And so that’s a simple fix with the financial institutions. And with the others, we have to educate and then we can put them on a month-by-month basis, and so forth. But we will get more money by not having people have to hit that big payment once a year. I think by breaking it up it will make it easier.”

Another $3 million will be saved by combining city employee and school employee medical insurance policies.

-Kelsey Radcliffe and Mark Dorroh

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