RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — When recently elected Richmond City Councilman Michael Jones learned the Richmond Public School District has $8 million dollars in its budget he wondered where the money came from.
“When we heard there was a surplus we think back to everyone coming down to last year’s city council meetings, all the budgets asking for more money … you think about the fights between the school board administration and city council and it makes you think, wow all of that could’ve been avoided,” Jones said. “I understand that there is a little hold-over, a million, a million and a half, but to get to $8 million that seems … it’s excessive.”
The councilman said that even if the money was not used by schools, it could have been used in other departments.
“I have citizens right now calling our phones tying up our lines because they’re upset, we still have leaves down on the southside in the 9th district today and we have $8 million dollars sitting up because we sent money from the city council,” Jones said.
School Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden explained the money is not a “surplus.” Instead, he said it is money the school system is required by law to report.
“First of all, the term ‘surplus’ is misleading. We don’t get to have a surplus. Last year we finished the year with about $3.4 million left. That’s like one percent of our budget that reverts back to the city and they put it in the unassigned fund balance. We don’t own the money,” Bedden said. “We don’t have a surplus. Any money that is allocated to us that we don’t expend and we don’t want to go into a place where we spend just to spend. That is not the culture we want in our school division.”
Bedden and RPS Chief Financial Officer David Myers said school and city leaders have already been in discussions on how the money should be spent.
“But we can’t spend any of that without approval from the city, it’s not ours. It’s the city’s,” Myers said. “So, if we did need to use that, we would have to ask for their approval.”