A Budget Story

Part I: Call to Action before April 24th at 11am

Richmond Forward’s priority action is to pass and fund a comprehensive plan for RPS facilities.

Passing the Plan

To date, the Mayor and City Council have yet to endorse the School Board’s adopted long-range facilities plan. Mayor Stoney’s Education Compact proposes to be the framework through which an endorsement of the existing plan, or an alternate solution, could be gained. Richmond Forward’s proposed timeline for the Education Compact would have them lead a community conversation this summer, followed by full adoption by all elected officials this fall.

With this reality, we know that fully funding the facilities plan will not be accomplished in the current (2017-2018) budget. We’ll wait another year to fix our problem and the status quo of failing school facilities, will continue.  

Funding the Plan

Although long-range dollars can be gained, there’s highly important baseline school maintenance funding and “cleaning up our house” actions the 2017 budget provides.

Remember that Richmond historically funded school facility maintenance at $0.10/square foot when the industry standard is $3.00/square foot. This is completely unacceptable.

Call to Action!

Contact City Council before Monday, April 24th at 11am, with your thoughts on the proposed budget amendments. To establish baseline and sustainable funding for school maintenance, Richmond Forward proposes support for the following budget amendments:

#1: $0.80 cigarette tax to generate $5M annually that is specifically earmarked for school facilities. $50M in additional debt capacity over 5 years.

#2: Collect PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) $1.1M annually that is specifically earmarked for school facilities.

#3: Proposed CIP cuts, all of which could be redirected to school facilities maintenance:

  • $2M cut to City Hall facilities (Gray, Hilbert, and Jones)
  • $400k cut to John Marshall Courts Building (Hilbert and Larson)
  • $293k cut to Boulevard Redevelopment Phase II (Jones)
  • $708k Kanawha Plaza (Jones)
  • $925k remove funding from completed Monroe Park projects (Agelasto)

If these amendments pass, we’ll have $12M for school facilities ($2.70/square foot)! This would be a terrific step in moving us away from inadmissible funding for basic school maintenance.  

If these amendments do not pass, Mayor Stoney is only proposing $1.6M for facility maintenance ($0.36/square foot). This is unacceptable.

Is it that easy? Yes and no.

Yes, because we’re talking about people and paper. If the people (City Council) wanted the paper (CIP & Budget) to reflect this reality, it could happen today.

No, because we’re talking about politics. The cigarette tax is going to be fought by Altria and convenience store owners close to the counties. For PILOT businesses (VHDA, VPBA, and Bio Tech) who haven’t paid taxes, this will be a new pill to swallow. Council President Chris Hilbert is a VHDA employee, so this is headed towards a collision.

No, because each redirection of CIP dollars will end projects that were promised in past years. Many of these projects are well-intentioned, have good people behind them, and are generally good ideas. Richmond Forward asks that the community remain conscious that we are asking to redirect dollars from one well-intentioned effort to another.

Yes, if you speak up. None of these amendments have 5 votes today. Change will only happen if you get fired up and let your Council member know that the status quo is unacceptable.

Contact your City Council member (email or call City Council) before Monday, April 24th at 11am! Then, grab a friend and show up to City Council at 6pm and speak during public comment on the budget!

Part II: 2017 Budget Basics

The Process

The following is a quick recap of the updated budget schedule:

  • December 2016: Superintendent statement of needs (done)
  • February 2017: School Board proposed budget (done) and CIP (done)
  • March 6th, 2017: Mayor proposes budget (done) and CIP (done)
  • April 11th, 2017: City Council deadline for amendments due
  • April 17th, 2017: City Council amendments made public (done)
  • April 24th, 2017: Public comment at City Council!
  • May 8th, 2017: City Council adoption of budget and CIP  
  • May 15th, 2017: School Board adoption of budget and CIP

At this point in the game we're about 90% complete. That’s a bummer because official public comment has yet to occur. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as Richmond’s budget process follows a common practice throughout Virginia.

It is also why last October we pushed for The Roanoke 40, which would have automatically allocated a set portion of the budget for schools, because this is when major changes to the budget occur.  

We won’t let the long political process, roadblocks, and budget cycle discourage us. Instead, let’s become experts on budget process so we can make the most effective strategies!

Budgeting 101

Two thick paper documents direct money in Richmond. The Budget pays for people (i.e. operations) and CIP (Capital Improvements Plan) pays for physical items. The City of Lethbridge has a 3-minute educational video for a slightly deeper explanation.

The Budget is a 12 month process. Thanks to University of Richmond students, we have RVAGOV’s budget explanation page to provide images to explain the budget cycle.

The CIP is the more important document for school facilities because it funds the big tickets items.  By funding this through the CIP, any money spent of facilities (roof, HVAC, windows, etc.) requires a lifespan of over 20-years.

RPS Budget

For an informative (but poor audio quality) analysis, watch this RPS community presentation on the Bellweather budget analysis report. For a much more digestible, yet as informative, read go to Teresa Cole’s RVANews FAQ #003.

The RPS budget includes $2M annually for facilities maintenance to address items that have less than a 20-year lifespan.

RPS CIP

Start with Teresa Cole’s RVANews FAQ #004.1 and 004.2. For specific numbers on funding annual maintenance needs and implementing the facilities plan, check out pages 74-78 of Dr. Bedden’s statement of needs. Implementing phase I includes a new Greene Elementary, Elkhardt Middle, and a renovation and expansion of Westover Hills Elementary.  

City's CIP

There are two line items for schools, School Capital Maintenance (pp. 59) and School Planning and Construction (pp. 210). There titles describe their main actions, funding maintenance and new construction.

Maintenance was historically budgeted at $500k per year ($0.10/square foot), as seen in the image below. This is an unacceptable level when compared to the industry standard for facilities ($3.00/square foot). Chesterfield County uses $3.89/square foot to plan for school facilities maintenance, per their administration.

In the past decade alone, Richmond is $100M behind in basic funding for school facility maintenance.

The 2017 Budget Story

School Board

Superintendent Bedden presented his statement of needs in December 2016 that called for an additional $22.8M for RPS’s Budget.  

The School Board, knowing they wouldn’t get the entire sum, passed a Budget that requested $21.2M more from last year. The bill for Mayor Stoney and City Council would be $16.8M additional dollars (the School Board is expecting $4.4M from the state).  

They also passed a CIP (page 74-78) that requested $41.5M. This included a one-time lump sum ($31M) to address a major backlog of facility maintenance needs, along with funding a bus replacement program ($2M) and implementing the facilities plan phase I ($8.5M).

Mayor

Mayor Stoney’s proposed Budget includes a $6.1M increase for schools, earmarked (meaning is must be used for a specific purpose) on teacher salary increases to address competitiveness and cost of living.

Stating that $6.1M is earmarked for teacher salary is symbolic, as the legislative power for how funds are used will be determined by the School Board.

The CIP included $1.6M for maintenance and $0 for new construction.

This leaves $12M Budget and $39.9M CIP gap between the Mayor and School Board. It’s now headed to City Council to find a middle ground.

Dr. Bedden’s Twist

Two weeks after Mayor Stoney announces his plans, Dr. Bedden reveals that RPS has $8.5M left in an unassigned fund balance (meaning they saved money from past years). This was allowed with a handshake agreement from the past City administration and is a practice used elsewhere in the state (e.g. Roanoke).

It was awkward that the School Board didn’t know of these funds a few weeks before when finalizing their budget and couldn’t assign them a place. Without this action, these funds are legally left up to City Council to allocate. The schools may not get all of this money back.

City Council

On April 11th City Council had to turn in their amendments and on the 17th they’re made public. The week lag allows City staff to analyze for budget impact and combine similar requests. The only changes to the budget from this point on are those listed in the proposed amendments document.  

Immediate Updates!

For immediate updates, here are recommended resources (let me know if I’m missing any):

Part III: Richmond Forward’s Parting Thoughts

Although new construction CIP dollars cannot be gained, the 2017 budget should be able to end our historically unacceptable level of school facility maintenance funding.

Contact City Council before Monday, April 24th at 11am, with your thoughts on the proposed budget amendments. To establish baseline and sustainable funding for school maintenance, Richmond Forward proposes support for the following budget amendments:

#1: $0.80 cigarette tax to generate $5M annually that is specifically earmarked for school facilities. $50M in additional debt capacity over 5 years.

#2: Collect PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) $1.1M annually that is specifically earmarked for school facilities.

#3: Proposed CIP cuts, all of which could be redirected to school facilities maintenance:

  • $2M cut to City Hall facilities (Gray, Hilbert, and Jones)
  • $400k cut to John Marshall Courts Building (Hilbert and Larson)
  • $293k cut to Boulevard Redevelopment Phase II (Jones)
  • $708k Kanawha Plaza (Jones)
  • $925k remove funding from completed Monroe Park projects (Agelasto)

If these amendments pass, we’ll have $12M for school facilities ($2.70/square foot)! This would be a terrific step in moving us away from inadmissible funding for basic school maintenance.  

If these amendments do not pass, Mayor Stoney is only proposing $1.6M for facility maintenance ($0.36/square foot). This is unacceptable.

It’s time for you to act!

Contact your City Council member (email or call City Council) before Monday, April 24th at 11am! Then, grab a friend and show up to City Council at 6pm and speak during public comment on the budget!