School Board Defines Need

On Monday (2/8), RPS Facilities Director Thomas Kranz presented a very important update on the failing state of RPS facilities. If you don’t have a free hour and fifteen, jump to the community meetings recap (58:25) and the facilities “train wreck” coming to Richmond this fall (1:01:40). Honestly, this may be the most important presentation I’ve seen on the impending catastrophe we face as a City due to decades of disinvestment. Be sure to make time to view!

At this meeting, the School Board voted to approve $19.1 million in stop-gap measures to address immediate school capacity issues and $41 million dollars in the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) for emergency maintenance needs (HVAC, roofing, electrical, and safety), along with commonly included requests for technology and ground maintenance. The $41 million is needed for 2017 alone, so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do!  

WHY IS MAINTENANCE so costly? 

Remember until 2015, the CIP line item for school facility maintenance was a paltry $500,000 for many years, which equates to $0.06 per square foot (SF) of area managed (7,938,048 SF total). Baltimore’s analysis of common industry practice for facility maintenance costs project an average of $4.08/SF (see page 35). Even with the additional $8.1 million allocated last year, Richmond only funded maintenance at $1.02/SF

Analogy Alert! 

You just bought a turn of the century home and are looking to rehab. What you thought was a 3-month kitchen and bathroom update, turned into a monstrous overhaul process. Through decades of disinvestment, the previous owners allowed the roof to fall in, the basement is filling with water, and that den paneling has a dark greenish-purple color formed over years of what can only be a mold asbestos combo. Its going to cost a lot up front to put your family in this house. Its worth making the correct, and more-costly, upgrades now to realize any long term cost savings. Applying a new coat of paint to the den ceiling or short-term roof patches won’t last for long. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? 

The RPS facilities plan community meetings are now complete. Monday, March 7th at 6pm in City Hall (17th floor), is the proposed School Board meeting where the recap of these meetings will be presented. 

The RPS facilities funding request now goes to City Council for approval. Check out their budget schedule. Important work session meetings for schools occur on March 21st (Noon - 2pm) and April 11th (Noon - 4pm). Also, the School Board and City Council have a Joint-Meeting scheduled for March 14th from 9am - Noon

I’d also encourage you to attend a School Board (1st and 3rd Mondays) or City Council (2nd and 4th Mondays) meeting and let your voice be heard. These meetings start at 6pm in City Hall. For City Council, you need to contact the City Clerk (646-7955) in advance to sign up, as there are only 10 slots per meeting with a 3-minute limit per speaker. The “Support our Schools” group of teachers and parents is doing a great job coordinating input and encourages speakers to sign up here once you have your spot at City Council.

To recap, there is an impending train wreck of facility costs that will force us to scramble and react, unless we aggressively plan and pay for them now. We also know that money for new construction alone will not solve our problems. The facilities plan provides guidance on physical infrastructure, but a more comprehensive package of reforms is needed. Richmond Forward is helping to craft a “facilities package” that includes the infrastructure plan, reforms for efficient government, community schools, and coordination with anti-poverty/revitalization plans that will be presented at the March 7th School Board meeting. I’d encourage you to attend and hope to see you there.