Henrico manager scolds superintendent, school board over laptop vote

Posted at 12:25 PM, May 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-02 15:25:08-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – In a letter addressed to Henrico County Schools Superintendent Pat Russo, County Manager John Vithoulkas ordered Henrico’s Department of General Services to stop a contract with Dell computers the School Board approved in an unscheduled vote last month.

Vithoulkas said he stopped the laptop contract because the vote was not on the board’s agenda and there was no “clear direction” on how the County would pay for the four year, $17.6 million contract.

“From this point forward, Henrico County Public Schools needs to ensure that funds are appropriated at the time they are obligated,” Vithoulkas wrote. “This is how every other department in Henrico County does business and, as 55.0 percent of General Fund expenditures, I expect the same adherence to County policy.”

Henrico County School leaders planned to revisit the laptop contract at a meeting later this month, Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks said.

“As originally planned, an agenda item for the May 9 work session will provide an opportunity to fully explain the laptop contract. We have also created an opportunity for public comment at that time,” Jenks wrote in an email to the Times-Dispatch.

The board’s laptop vote came just days after the Henrico County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution asking for a referendum on a county-wide meals tax. Board members hope county voters approve a 4 percent tax on all prepared food and drinks in restaurants across the county.

Money raised by the yet-to-be approved meals tax would be used for operational costs and capital projects for Henrico County Schools. It’s estimated that the tax could generate for than $18 million for the county school system.

In his letter to the superintendent, Vithoulkas asked Russo to provide the plan on how the county would pay for the four-year contract. He made it clear the proposed meals tax should not be used to pay for the Dell contract.

“Because this is a multi-year obligation of taxpayer funds, I am requesting that you provide a funding plan that assures this obligation will be paid for within existing revenue sources and not reliant upon new revenue sources,” he wrote. “This projection needs to be provided to me before the School Board takes any action to obligate County funds for this purpose. Without this assurance, I cannot recommend the Board of Supervisors appropriate funds for this purpose in June.”

Jenks said the superintendent would respond “in due time” to Vithoulkas.