Richmond Times Dispatch –
Richmond Public Schools officials and Mayor Levar Stoney say they’re discussing how to spend an additional $8.3 million the school system recently revealed it has accrued over several years of budget surpluses.
The funding had not been part of budget discussions between the school system and Stoney’s administration until last week — after both school officials and Stoney issued their spending proposals for the coming year.
Some City Council members have raised questions about how the school system was able to quietly build the savings at a time when it and its advocates were pleading for $16.8 million more in local tax dollars.
Several officials defended the practice as generally accepted, but others asked whether the school system was holding back.
“Eight million dollars seems to be a rather large number to just be sitting there in reserve,” Councilman Parker C. Agelasto said. “Schools appear to be sitting on their money.”
The number also came as a surprise to 4th District School Board member Jonathan Young, who said he would have liked to have known the figure before considering the budget last month.
“I would share in those same reservations,” Young said of council members’ concerns. “Specifically as it relates to a big new ask of our taxpayers.”
Any money allocated to the schools that’s left over at the end of the year must revert to the city under state law, City Attorney Allen Jackson said. But the previous mayor, Dwight C. Jones, allowed the school system to hold on to the difference and apply it to the next year’s budget.
“Mayor Jones always made a decision to allow schools to keep their fund balance,” said Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, who resigned as School Board chairman last month to join the General Assembly.
“If we asked for $10 million and had $2 million left over from the prior year, he’d let us keep the $2 million and give us $8 million.”
Former School Board member Kim Gray, who now sits on the City Council, said she was surprised by the amount.