Firm suggests job cuts, benefit changes to close Richmond school budget gap

Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-10 18:24:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A consulting firm hired by the city of Richmond to find savings within the city's school budget said Tuesday it can recoup $23 million through job cuts and changing health and dental benefits with current and retired employees.

The Schools Accountability and Efficiency Review Task Force, established earlier this year by Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, will review the firm's findings and decide how to proceed.

The consulting firm, led by former Richmond City Manager Robert Bobb, said the city could eliminate some jobs including teachers, teacher aides,custodians, administrators and security.

In terms of classroom impact, the firm said an early budget cut by the school system, including the loss of nearly 300 jobs, could be reduced to 92. That number included 20 teachers, 20 aids, 25 custodians and 13 security officers.

The firm said transportation is another area that could land $6 million in savings for the district  by allowing a private company to take over both transportation and facility maintenance. That would allow the school system to see a substantial savings and get out of the school bus business.

Bobb's firm also recommended city schools begin furloughs to save money.

And the consulting firm did not just look for cuts, but also at ways for the school system to increase revenue.

The firms said better utilizing billing for Medicaid reimbursements could net the district more than $1 million a year.

Additionally, the school system could also look to cellphone companies for potential income. In fact, several school-owned properties have the potential to become cell tower sites. That means the property could be leased long-term and provide a financial windfall for the school system.

Even with the cuts, the firm said there remains nearly $245,000 left to trim.

Earlier this year Mayor Jones established the task force, a team of government, business and school administration specialists, to try to close the $24 million gap in the school district’s budget without raising the real estate tax.

A final report is due to the task force on April 16.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for continuing coverage of the Richmond Public School budget deficit.