RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) –
For more than a decade, Robert Bobb was a familiar face around City Hall, serving as Richmond’s City Manager from 1986 until 1997.
Now Bobb will be back on the city payroll and examining an issue that, to date, has befuddled the Richmond School Board, Mayor Dwight Jones and a special task force appointed by the mayor: the school system’s $23.8 million budget shortfall.
Bobb, who owns the Washington-based consulting firm, Robert Bobb Group, will be joining the Mayor’s School Accountability and Efficiency Task Force along with another consultant, Alvarez and Marsal, as the city searches for ways to stop the bleeding.
In March, the Richmond School Board approved a budget of $239.9 million but only has funding to cover $216.1 million, leaving a gaping hole in the 2013 fiscal year budget that takes effect July 1.
The board asked Mayor Jones and City Council to address the shortfall, either through cuts or new revenue.
Instead, the mayor formed the task force headed by former state Secretary of Education James Dyke, Jr.
That task force will be employing the services of Bobb and the other consultants, using a $35,000 stipend provided by the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber Marketing Director Lesley Bruno told CBS 6 Thursday afternoon that the money comes from a Chamber foundation that is set up for community initiatives.
“Whenever we survey our members, K-12 education comes up time and time again as a critical issue,” said Bruno. “So when we learned of this funding gap, we thought that this would be a great way to expedite a project that the mayor and the Richmond City Public School System would like to see carried out.”
Referencing the deep budget shortfall, Bruno added, “they have a need, we have the funds, and we thought it would be a good fit for us because it aligns with our mission to support education.”
According to a city press release, Bobb will lend expertise in assessing the budget cut proposals already offered by School Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon, look for ways to move ‘non-instructional’ savings into the classrooms and help the task force focus its efforts to maximize spending on programs that ‘improve student achievement.’
Bobb has served as city manager for the cities of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Santa Ana, California; Richmond, Oakland and Washington, D.C in an administrative career that has spanned more than 30 years.
Most recently, Bobb was appointed to serve as the emergency financial manager for the Detroit Public Schools as it grappled with a budget deficit of several hundred million dollars.
Before leaving his position in 2011, Bobb was unable to bring the Detroit school system back from its financial woes, though he was praised for many of his initiatives.