These two words could transform RPS.
As important as increasing funding for RPS, is installing a climate in government of transparency, teamwork, and trust. Any hope of Richmond gaining major financial support from the state or private partners (which will be needed) begins with a functional atmosphere in local government between the Mayor, City Council, and School Board.
Two major steps towards achieving this environment - which should happen before the election - would be for City Council to...
1. Review and adopt a comprehensive facilities plan (endorse option #5 of the RPS facilities plan)
2. Develop a formula to establish dedicated funding levels for RPS
This Thursday (July 21st) at 3pm, City Council's Finance Committee will discuss ordinances ORD2016-137 and ORD2016-140 which attempt to dedicate a percentage of revenues for funding RPS. These papers are the starting point for pursuing a solution to develop a local funding formula.
Local funding formula sounds great, but has this been done?
Yes, Roanoke and Hampton are prime examples.
Hampton's local funding formula (page 29) was adopted in 1999 and directs 61.83% of all residential real estate, personal property, and utility taxes to schools.
- Amount provided to schools is not based on state/federal contribution levels
- Commercial component of taxes is subtracted
- If state funding levels are ever increased (as recommended in countless JLARC studies) then the local formula could be reevaluated
- School Board could make special requests above formula if warranted
- Dedicated real estate tax increases are not shared according to local formula
Included in their chart is the percentage that schools comprised of the local budget. In the past 7 years, schools ranged from 32.1% to 36.3%. In Richmond's recently adopted budget, school funding comprised 24.4%.
Roanoke established a 20-year funding agreement (page 34) between the City and Schools in 2010 that directed 36.42% of all local taxes collected and rose to a 40% benchmark in 2012.
- School Board assumed responsibility to budget for payment of debt service in 2012
- 2% special meals tax for 2011 and 2012 was implemented to generate additional revenues for schools (page 7)
Roanoke's work is a gold standard as they lay the groundwork by detailing a step-by-step plan for others to develop or revising their funding agreements (page 4-16).
How do we make this happen in Richmond?
Ordinances 137 and 140, patroned by Jon Baliles, propose dedicating a percentage of meals and real estate tax revenues as a dedicated funding source for RPS. The Mayor's analysis isn't favorable, but no alternative solutions have been presented.
The first vote on these ordinances may occur this Thursday, July 21st at City Council's Finance Committee. Their meeting starts at 3pm in Council Chambers (2nd floor, City Hall).
If you can show up to this meeting, please do. Showing solidarity early in the process towards solutions is needed.
Public comment will be allowed at the committee meeting. City Council members Ellen Robertson, Kathy Graziano, Parker Agelasto, and alternate Charles Samuels comprise the committee. Our count shows the current vote at 2-1 against. If the committee recommends denial, it will take 5 votes in a Council work session to list on consent agenda for a vote. Please contact these Council members before Thursday at 3pm!
Don't be surprised if these ordinances get delayed another month. I've heard that compromise with City administration on a percentage of real estate tax dedicated to RPS may be reached if real estate tax collection can be based on equalization. I'm not fully sure what that sentence means, but this video helped.
Once this heads out of committee with a recommendation, it goes to City Council for a public hearing on July 25th or September 12th.
The timeline is key. It will be imperative that we get this decided before the election as next year's budget begins in October. If the members of City Council running for re-election or the Mayor's office want to be on record as supporting change to our current system, they need to be the leaders they say we need. If not, we as a citizenry need to stay informed and speak with our votes this fall.
Umoja - Community Strategy Series
“Unify, Reconcile, Dismantle”
Described as a "People’s introspective assessment of our situation, to inform, direct and strategize ways we can affect the change we demand in our communities," this group is looking to further the conversation of brokenness between African Americans and American society/government.
The call of civil rights is a driving force behind Richmond Forward's priority action to adopt and fund a comprehensive RPS facilities plan. Reporter Zachary Reid reminded us of the racially driven century of disinvestment in Richmond's schools that developed the separate and unequal system we live with today.
A movement like Umoja is needed to redirect the tools that were used to divide us (community strategic planning), to unify our community.
I can't highly recommend this series enough. Please join their Facebook group, attend the events, and pass on the flyer below.