While Richmond’s city council voted on funding for Richmond Public Schools Monday evening, the two groups have a long way to go to reconcile their differences.
Councilwoman Ellen Robertson says collaboration between city council and the school board needs to go a step further with both parties on the same page about funding expectations going forward. Councilwoman Kim Gray agrees, but says she doesn’t think the district should be able to carry over unspent funds from year to year. The district isn’t allowed to bank or carry over funds from one year into the other without approval by city council.
“There’s been this ongoing system of underfunding schools and accumulating large balances at the end of the fiscal year," Gray said. "And that’s got to stop: the best way to demonstrate the need for additional funding is to spend the funding that the schools have.”
The district has said the money was unspent due to vacancies. This year, council allowed the school board to keep a one-time $12.5 million surplus to be carried over into the next fiscal year, but the school board has asked for that funding to continue in perpetuity. Superintendent Jason Kamras has suggested the money be used for one-time raises, additional ESL teachers and support staff, gifted teachers, ensuring there's a nurse at every school, and more.
There’s also still a nearly $1.5 million discrepancy in the amount the school district says they have in their capital budget and the figure on the city’s books that no one’s been able to figure out just yet.