Petersburg school’s owed $1.9 million by the city

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The Petersburg school system is learning they’ll be $1.9 million dollars short this year, money that was promised to them in the last city budget.

“I’d rather see my money go to schools than, who needs a new sewer line, or new roads,” said Lori Hlasny, a Petersburg resident.

For Hlasny, a mother of two, her children are too young to go to Petersburg schools. But, in just a few short years if they were to stay in Petersburg, her children would go to Walnut Elementary School.

“I rather my kids go to better schools. Because if they are not going to get the best education why would I stay here versus moving 30 minutes up the street,” said Hlasny.

But news of the school system currently facing being short nearly $2 million at the end of June makes her want to leave town. That’s exactly what acting City Manager Tom Tyrell says will happen.

“Because of Petersburg’s fiscal crisis we negotiated the bare minimum payment to the schools that a locality is allowed to pay,” Tyrrell explained.

So why the issue paying the $1.9 million? It’s confusing, but essentially for the past 10 years the school system would use money from the new fiscal year to pay off the last debts of the previous fiscal year.

When the city was paying the school system more than the bare minimum, Tyrrell mentioned that was OK. But now since there is no wiggle room, the money that was used to pay last fiscal years debts was used out of the school system current budget instead of going towards the more than $8 million current school budget.

“So this year when we pay three months late on the cash transfer it results in us dipping below the states required minimum, so we have to find an answer for that this year, we can’t kick that down the road,” said Tyrrell.

So what happens when the city cant make that 1.9 million by June 30th, the end of the current fiscal year? The state could step in and take the money out of state money the city would receive and give it right to the school system. Tyrrell hopes that doesn’t happen.

“Obviously that puts Petersburg at an even deeper financial crisis,” said Tyrrell.

Tyrrell says they are working on an arrangement with the school system, but the city needs money.

“What we’re trying to find is that additional $1.9 million and we will get it to them as soon as we can,” said Tyrrell.

“This has been an ongoing issue with the city over several years,” Superintendent Dr. Marcus Newsome said. “This situation may delay progress within the schools, but it will not stop our progress.”

The city manager hopes to sell city property to make the money.

“We want to sell everything and anything we can sell right now that we don’t need,” said Tyrrell.

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