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Crumbling schools will not get requested funds in mayor’s budget plan

Posted at 7:57 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 20:02:31-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Mayor Dwight Jones presented his budget plan to city council Friday and it appears Richmond Public Schools will not be getting the money they asked for to fix their crumbling schools.

Mayor's Budget 

Jones began by noting the city's obligations are growing faster than projected revenue, so he has proposed a number of reductions and cuts. However, he pledged to maintain increased funding provided to the city's schools last year.

“This fiscal plan reflects the constraints of limited resources,” Jones in a news release. “While we have charted a course to generate revenues to meet existing operations, additional revenue must be generated to meet all of our needs.”

  • Total General Fund revenues (projected) $709,152,771 for FY17
  • Capital Improvement Plan expenditures and revenues are projected at $68.71 million in FY17 ($155.7 million over 5 years)

"The budget proposes cutting departmental discretionary operating budgets of 12%, reductions of 25% in most non-departmental categories, and fee increases for refuse collection to support the city’s leaf collection program. The reductions and fee adjustments are being proposed in order to support Richmond Public Schools maintaining the increase in local funding which was approved last year and funded with city agency operational dollars," a news release from the mayor's office stated.

The budget increases funding for public safety departments to address minimum staffing requirements and also absorbs the cost of health care premium increases for city workers.

Jones is also proposing a multi-year school investment and plan to find added funding for schools that will capitalize on all new economic growth of the city. In fact, Jones said residential and commercial expansion is the key to significant new funding for Richmond Public Schools. In one example, Jones pointed to expected revenue from rising real estate valuations along the Broad Street corridor with the Bus Rapid Transit project.

Jones is also considering a possible referendum to gauge public opinion about tax increases or additional cuts to services.

Click here for the full text of the mayor's budget.

Heated Exchange 

After the budget proposal was presented, Jones and 8th district city council woman Reva Trammell had a heated exchange.

Trammell wanted to know where is the $25 million for the hundreds of vacant positions in the city's department of public works that Trammell said is impacting city services.

"I don't know why my colleagues won't speak up? I travel through this city everyday," Trammell said. "How can you cut or not hire anybody else when we got so many vacancies."

"Are you aware Ms. Trammell, Are you aware Ms. Trammell," said Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.

"I'm sorry, what?"  Trammell questioned.

"Are you aware that city council cut the unfunded positions?" Jones fired back.

"Are you aware that I've been asking every year, every year, I ask public works do they have enough employees? And they say, yes. They're not understaffed. That's what they say," said Trammell.

"Alright, I'm not going to argue with you," Jones said.

"You're the mayor. You're the mayor. Is is niceties over necessities?" questioned Trammell. "Answer the question, Mr. Mayor."

"First of all, we have Richmond Public Schools every year under my administration, we have built four new schools," Jones said. "I have laid out here today a fast path forward. So, we can rehearse history and talk about what hasn't been done or we can talk about how we're going to go forward and provide some solutions."

WTVR CBS 6 spoke with school leaders very disappointed over the mayor's proposed budget that only gives them five million of the additional $18 million requested to fix aging school buildings and address safety and health concerns.

"We all have needs, but at the end of the day, we're all trying to make the children of our city at a better place than they are now," Kristen Larsen, a Richmond school board member, said.

Stay with and watch CBS 6 News for continuing coverage of this story.