Mayor Tom Butt cited stabilizing the City’s long-term financial condition and reducing the City’s rising crime rate as his main objectives for 2016 at his State of the City presentation on Tuesday. Countering both of these major challenges will take creative approaches, Mayor Butt conceded, but he believes the City is up for the task.
“We have opportunities and challenges ahead, but I’m optimistic that 2016 will be a great year for the City of Richmond,” Mayor Butt said at the opening of his remarks.
After a year of challenges to the City’s finances, including credit downgrades from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s and a five-year fiscal forecast that outlined a future of budget deficits, Mayor Butt explained that 2016 will be a pivotal year for the City’s fiscal condition.
“The short story is that while Richmond’s fiscal condition has been stable, the fiscal trajectory is not sustainable,” Mayor Butt said. “We have work to do.”
A bit of good news came in late December 2015 when Standard & Poor’s removed the City from its credit watch and affirmed its rating for the City, but challenges beyond the City’s credit rating persist.
Mayor Butt cited the City’s weak tax base, including low property tax values, as main concerns. Richmond has the 4th lowest median income in the Bay Area, which Mayor Butt discussed as a weakness of the City’s economy.
“Until Richmond becomes a more income-diverse community, we will continue to struggle with revenues,” the mayor said.
In order to close the $8.7 million hole in the City’s 2016-17 budget before its approval by the end of June, Mayor Butt is calling on all City departments to look for ways to increase revenues while decreasing expenditures. Additionally, Mayor Butt proposed ways to increase revenues in the City through raising taxes on businesses that sell and cultivate marijuana, and reforming the City’s license and permitting process.
“2016 will be a watershed year for Richmond’s finances,” Butt said at the close of his discussion on the City’s finances. “We have about four to five months to figure this out.”
Mayor Butt also outlined ambitious goals for reducing the City’s crime rate in the coming year.
“After the uptick in crime in 2015, we need to examine our strategies and work to bring homicides down do the single digits for the first time in decades by 2017,” Mayor Butt said.
Through Richmond saw its lowest homicide rate in decades in 2014 with a low of 11, that number shot up to 21 in 2015, which, among other factors, keeps Richmond on the list of the 10 most dangerous cities in the Bay Area.
The mayor cited increased technology, community outreach through the Office of Neighborhood Safety, and significant community engagement as the keys to tackling the increase in crime.
Despite the significant challenges ahead, Mayor Butt appeared chomping at the bit to tackle them, concluding his speech with a warning to the year ahead: “2016, here we come. Get out of our way.”
Click here to view slides from the presentation.