House, Senate look to lessen the School Budget crisis

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - School systems continue to deal with a budget crisis. But this week, word came down from the capitol, that they may be getting some money back.

The School Funding Formula, based on population and wealth, determines how much state aid goes to local schools. A week ago we learned schools in Richmond would take yet another multi-million dollar hit. Now the House and Senate are proposing ways to give the money back.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate want to give certain Virginia school systems a one-time infusion of cash.

"What they've done is to hold-harmless localities that would've been losers," said Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Education Expert.

Richmond, Chesterfield, and Henrico, stood to lose another $16 million combined when the local Composite Index, or school funding formula, resets. But now: a bill in the House would restore 80% of the losses. While a similar idea in the Senate, would give back all of it.

"I think they heard the message, and they're trying to respond and be responsive to their constituents," said Kevin Smith, Henrico Asst. Superintendent of Finance.

Budget writers will make the "hold-harmless" payments using tax dollars that would otherwise have been spent elsewhere.

"Virginia does have money. They're gonna make it. The reality is how will they use the resources that they have?" said Bosher.

The worst is not over though. Districts still have big budget gaps. Teachers face layoffs. And programs may be cut. Every public school system in Virginia is looking at a new four-sided reality.

"They're losing state money. They're losing the stimulus money. Local housing assessments have gone down and then the fourth one is the recalculation of the Composite Index. It's a perfect storm on steroids," said Bosher.

The question now is which plan, House, Senate, or something else has the votes to pass?

"It may be some combination of the two, we don't know how it's gonna land, but we'll wait and see," said Smith.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on budget bills Thursday. But lawmakers must reach a compromise before sending a bill to the governor's desk for approval next month.

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