Hidden Deficits: Richmond Streets Edition

Source: City of Richmond

The condition of Richmond city roads is getting worse. Sixty-five percent of the city’s streets and roads are rated “fair to poor” or “poor or below,” Bobby Vincent, director of public works, told City Council Monday. Only 35% of streets and roads were rated “good,” according to Virginia Department of Transportation standards. That’s down from 53% as recently as 2014, reports Community Idea Stations.

Bringing roads back to standard would cost $104 million. Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed including $16.2 million more for roads and sidewalks in the upcoming budget, but the funding would come from an increase in property taxes and cigarette taxes which several city council persons openly oppose.

Allowing infrastructure to deteriorate is just a hidden form of deficit spending. That $104 million figure compares to total budget of about $710 million yearly and an annual public works capital budget of roughly $25 million. That’s quite a lot of hidden deficit spending over the years, and the figure doesn’t include spending shortfalls for other infrastructure such as school buildings, water-sewer plant, and other public facilities. Nor does it include the hidden deficits that take the form of pension under-funding.

But don’t assume Richmond is a unique basket case. Do you know your locality’s hidden deficit? Is it growing or shrinking? Is your city or county using the tax bounty of an economic expansion to reduce its maintenance backlogs? I’ll bet you have no clue.

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6 responses to “Hidden Deficits: Richmond Streets Edition

  1. Actually, I do have a clue and the answer is no, Prince William is not using “the tax bounty of economic expansion” (such that it is) to reduce its maintenance backlog. Rather, it is using that bounty to consistently increase the number of county employees at an exponential rate, build a lavish animal shelter at the cost of additional millions, spend millions on overly complex administrative HR software where COTS products would suffice, install granite countertops and gourmet kitchens in new firestations, etc., etc., etc. while whistling past the graveyard with respect to real infrastructure and school construction backlogs.

  2. Is there a racial component to the streets being is such condition? Is the lack of road maintenance analogous to the lack of school maintenance?
    Remember Richmond City has a tax rate of $1.20 vs Henrico’s $0.87. I wonder where the money goes.

    • Judging from how the curbs and sidewalks often stop at the county line when crossing from Arlington into Fairfax, would it be surprising if the same were true crossing from Richmond into Henrico? Which leads to the question, isn’t it simply more expensive per residence to maintain proper urban walkable-streetscape infrastructure, especially when it’s older?

      • It’s more expensive and the counties – seem to think it’s wrong to require it – even though as time goes by and development occurs – it creates a serious safety issue for people on foot who primarily affects those with lower incomes who live in more dense housing and not higher scale residential enclaves and cu-de-sacs ( where people and kids walk and play in the streets).

  3. All localities receive an allotment from VDOT for maintenance. That money can only be spent on roads . It’s based on a formula of which I’m not totally certain what it is these days but it’s something along the lines of lane miles and fuel taxes collected.

    It’s always a balancing act on the state of repair of roads no matter the jurisdiction.

    For instance , the State of Virgina itself has more than 800 structurally deficient bridges but still has a AAA credit ratings – as does PW county.

    If we think Virgina and it’s counties are fiscally irresponsible and incompetent – what we do we say about the millions of Americans who do not have near enough for retirement?

    Are we all incompetent and irresponsible no matter as individuals or government? Let me guess, the private sector does not have this problem, right?

    There is never enough money to keep everything in 100% condition.

    Some places are clearly better than others… but hardly anyone is perfect. localities that have higher numbers of low income and lower number of higher incomes invariably have some problems.

    But I’m not sure what the point really is. If you’re a city with a lot of low income folks – you;re just not going to have the same fiscal capacity as locaities with higher income taxpayers.

    What would we recommend doing instead?

    Sometimes I think the game here in BR is to periodically give some poor locality schmuck 20 lashes just to remind us all that there are a lot of slubs in the world and they need to be whipped from time to time.

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