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Superintendent: Budget increase too small to avoid school cuts

Posted at 12:44 PM, May 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 18:35:07-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden said discussions were still underway as to how city schools would adapt in the face of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

Bedden said schools could still close and school bus routes could be cut even after Richmond City Council agreed to give Richmond Public Schools an additional $9.5 million next school year. He said while the new money would help, the school system would remain about $11 million short of its needs for the 2016-2017 school year because only $5 million of the new funding could be used next year.  The remaining $4.5 million goes capital improvement projects, which are long term and have a separate budget from year to year operations, school leaders said.

"Everything is still on the table, yes, because again, nothing has changed with what we've recommended to the board," Bedden said.  "Richmond Public Schools has the same bar and the same standard as any other school district in the state, but if you visit our school, you'll find our resources aren't similar."

Richmond School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne said closing schools would be a last resort, and that cutting academic programs across the city would be the result if closures don't happen.

"There is not one of us out the the nine [on the school board] who want to close schools. We will look at every option," Bourne said.

Richmond City Council and Mayor Dwight Jones' office have until May 13 to finalize RPS's budget.

Tuesday night City Council agreed to a new budget plan which gave schools an additional $9.5 million, although only $5 million worth can be used against the shortfall in 2017.  The school system had asked for about $18 million more than Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones set aside for the 2017 fiscal year.

Bedden said the new revenue may help improve teacher pay, which he said was a top priority.