RPS Superintendent Dana Bedden addressed the school division's budget deliberations at a Wednesday morning press conference at City Hall. (Photo by Mark Robinson)
The additional funding Richmond City Council is expected to allocate for city schools won’t be enough to keep school closures and other cost-cutting measures off the table, said RPS Superintendent Dana Bedden Wednesday morning.
After hours of deliberation on Monday and Tuesday, council agreed to allocate an additional $5.5 million in operational funding for the school division, as well as $4 million more in capital funds. The School Board had asked for an additional $18 million in operational funding and $40 million in capital funding.
“While I am, and we are, appreciative of the council’s efforts to increase the school division’s budget allocation, it would appear based on the budget allocation that we are slated to receive, that many items, potentially like our academic improvement plan and program enhancements for our students and staff, may not be doable unless other areas are significantly reduced or cut from the budget,” Bedden said a press conference at City Hall.
The additional operational funding means the board is faced with about an $11 million shortfall, Bedden said. His administration has identified $9.7 million in operational cuts, $3 million of which would come from closing Armstrong High School and four elementary schools, as well as consolidating three specialty schools in one building.
The School Board will likely consider the administration’s cost-cutting measures at its next scheduled meeting on Monday, May 16, said board chairman Jeff Bourne.
“I don't speak for this entire board if I can ever avoid it, but I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that there is not one of us out of the nine [board members] that wants to close schools,” Bourne said. “We will look at every option and use any other budget savings strategy that we can to keep schools open.”