RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Dwight Jones held a press conference Friday morning addressing Richmond budget deliberations.
Mayor Jones said he would like more money for schools, but there just isn’t any to give.
Mayor Jones said several Richmond City Council members have mentioned plans to invest more in schools, but he has yet to receive any budget amendments. Jones said the amendments were due from council on Monday.
Jones said that the city’s population has increased by 10 percent while city staff has been reduced by 9 percent.
The mayor also mentioned that agency budgets are being reduced by 12 percent, but schools are not seeing any reduction in its budget. He said any additional cuts to other departments to fund schools could cut basic services and endanger public safety.
“It’s a bad idea to raid our financial reserves,” Jones said. “Any additional cuts to existing services would be detrimental to the city.”
Richmond is also operating at 2008 funding levels, Mayor Jones said.
“It’s unfortunate that were in the position that we’re in, but we’ve been in this position for many years. It did not happen overnight and the solution is not going to happen overnight,” Jones said. “We’ve got to be strategic in making sure we do this thing the right way.”
The mayor said that he’s created a multi-year funding team to come up with a plan to find a sustainable source of funding for schools.
Jones addressed other possible solutions for funding schools in the future including having residents vote on a referendum to raise property taxes, raise the meals tax, or emissions tax. The school system is currently looking at closing 6 schools to make up for the $18 million shortfall in their request.
“Where in the hell was he at Monday when those teachers were down here amd those children were down here crying their eyes out, and those parents begging us not to close those schools,” said city council member Reva Trammell in response to the mayor’s comments.
Trammell blames the mayor for the city’s current predicament.
“When we did the Redskin deal, we’re in this mess, we’re in this mess when he had the bike race, we’re in this mess when he did all the studies to put the baseball in the Shockoe Bottom that 80% of the Richmond citizens said they did not want,” said Trammell.
“Cutting schools is detrimental to public safety, cutting schools is detrimental to public health,” said school board member Kim Gray.
Gray says while she’s not expecting to get the full amount the school requested, middle ground would help.
“Somewhere in the middle would be helpful for us to be able to balance the budget and give our teachers the pay that they’re due,” said Gray.
City Council will meet on Monday to discuss the budget. They are expected to have funding approved for schools by next month.