Mayor finds millions for cash-strapped Richmond schools

Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-24 22:23:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) Cash-strapped Richmond Schools could have millions more to work with after Mayor Dwight Jones announced the city should contribute more.

Jones wants to put an additional $5.1 million into the public school fund, so teachers won’t face job cuts.

But that money will have to come from cuts in other departments.

For weeks, a task force commissioned by the Mayor had been working to fill a $24 million dollar hole in the Richmond's Schools budget.

That task force outlined a number of major cuts which faced intense scrutiny, even opposition from parents and City Council members.

While that work remains unresolved, Jones announced Tuesday he thinks the Richmond City Council should give the Richmond district an extra $5 million dollars, which would be used to keep paying health benefits for pre-Medicare retirees and to eliminate unpaid furlough days for school employees.

So, where would the money come from?

The Mayor had these suggestions:

  • Make a one percent across-the-board-cut to city government agencies, which will come from not filling vacant positions and will add up to $3.3 million dollars
  • Trim $250,000 budgeted to fix-up land around the Diamond.
  • Reduce the City's fleet budget by $1.5 million dollars.
  • Eliminate $250,000 from the Dove Court rehabilitation project.

Not surprisingly, at least one member of City Council noted the cuts’ potential impact.  "Certainly, services in the city will probably be affected by these cuts,” said Kathy Graziano, City Council President.

And although she said education was important, Graziano said it shouldn’t come at such a steep price to city residents.

"If we did not make cuts in the budget,” she said, “We would have to raise the tax rate by 12 cents in order to accommodate this $24 million dollar shortfall on the schools.”

The Mayor said his newest proposal came when he took a second look at the budget after finding he disagreed with some of the task force's recommended cuts.

Jones’ $5-million proposal, the task force recommendations and any other proposed budget amendments will go before City Council for a vote by May 14.