Budget Negotiations Begin

Quick takeaway

1. Get informed and let your voice be heard. The Mayor's proposed budget and Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) leaves a large gap in school funding. Stay engaged by learning about education funding (and other questions) through RVANews Education FAQ series. Then, make your voice heard at one of the upcoming City Council budget input meetings or contact City Council directly. Schedule your time to speak before City Council here

  • March 14th City Council-School Board Joint Meeting (9am-Noon)
  • March 14th City Council Public Meeting (6pm)
  • March 21st Budget Work Session: Schools (Noon-2pm) 
  • March 28th City Council Public Meeting (6pm) 

2. If budget numbers are your jam, help out. We're putting together an RPS facilities funding team to investigate options on a path forward. If you want to be on it, email me

3. Stay informed on social medial by joining the "Support our Schools" Facebook page, or check out #rvacouncil, #rvaschools, or #RVAForward on Twitter. 

And now, the rest of the story

On Friday (3/4) afternoon, Major Jones released his proposed budget and Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) which leaves a $105 million gap in new infrastructure and $36 million gap in school maintenance (for FY17) from the School Board request. This is a deep chasm. Ross Catow's graphic gives us a quick look at how deep.

The School Board and Mayor are on different paths. 

Path 1: No additional funding for new infrastructure because we've already built 4 new schools in the past 8 years. Schools are forced to use the currently allocated $18 million on stop-gap measures to address over-crowding issues in south Richmond. System-wide facilities needs are still drastic ($41 million this year alone), but City money is limited, so $5 million is given to maintenance. This serves as a band-aid to someone who is profusely bleeding from the leg. 

Path 2: Funding plan for future school investment is allocated ($105 million over 5 years, with $10.5 million in FY17) and the currently allocated $18 million goes to aid this plan by investing in long-term cost-savings measures to address over-crowding issues in south Richmond. Drastic system-wide facilities needs are met with a larger one-time sum of money ($41 million) to allow RPS to begin a regular schedule of asset maintenance and replacement ($15 to $11 million a year). This plan provides the best step forward for our district minus one [MAJOR] element, secured funding. 

The School Board adopted Path 2, the Mayor followed Path 1. 

At Richmond Forward we understand that money is finite and City revenues are limited. Last year's practice of using $9 million of City office vacancies to pay for increased education funding is NOT sustainable or a quality government practice. 

Let's have an open, grow-up, conversation about funding. In the Mayor's budget letter to the City it mentions a forthcoming plan to "allocate a percentage of all incremental new real estate tax revenue to fund school construction and renovation projects." We also have talk of a fall referendum to raise real estate taxes by as much as 15 cents. 

So far, the conversation has been limited to the Mayor's office. If you feel left out, think about Dr. Bedden who wasn't told about the tax referendum before it went public! Mayor Jones makes strong statement in the budget letter that schools are the "single" (bold and underlined in the Mayor's letter to display importance!) largest expenditure in the operating budget. If this is the "single" most important budgeted item, why not talk to Dr. Bedden?

Additional revenues may be needed and this is the conversation we - as a community - need to have in an open, transparent, and inclusive way. How can we adopt a public investment schedule to leverage private partnerships? What private funding options, such as PPEA and historic tax credits, are available? If we are increasing revenues, what sources are we using and how will it be allocated? Who will be held accountable?

I'm hoping this conversation will occur in the City Council budget talks, but Richmond Forward is here to fill in the gaps where needed. This is why we're putting together an RPS facilities funding team to provide options on a path forward. If budget numbers are your jam, help out and email me!

Next, get informed. RVANews is writing a terrific education FAQ series that you should read. The "Support our Schools" Facebook page is constantly being updated with new information and and check out #rvacouncil, #rvaschools, or #RVAForward on Twitter for updates. 

I couldn't find any simple super-informative videos online explaining the budget and CIP process, so here is my over-simplified attempt. 

The "Biennial Fiscal Plan" is the budget. This covers the operations side of government, whereas the "Capital Improvements Plan" pays for the physical improvements (assets). 

The CIP is a restaurant menu of choices (projects) to order. You're a family of 5 with a limited supply of cash. Making choices is necessary. Question we have to ask, is the Mayor ordering the right things? 

If you want real change in the budget or CIP, discussions need to start in the fall. Within the next few months, each of these documents will be debated and margins can move, but it would be a true exception for monumental changes to occur. 

With that said, making your voice heard now is more important than ever. Attend one of the upcoming City Council budget input meetings or contact City Council directly. Schedule your time to speak before City Council here

  • March 14th Joint Meeting with School Board (9am-Noon)
  • March 14th City Council Public Meeting (6pm)
  • March 21st Budget Work Session: Schools (Noon-2pm) 
  • March 28th City Council Public Meeting (6pm) 

Thanks for reading and let's make it clear that education is our top economic development, child safety, and civil right priority!