Richmond: Task force focuses on school budget

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond Public Schools is facing a $24 million budget shortfall. Monday morning, a school budget task force, created by Mayor Dwight Jones, gathered for the first time to discuss the deficit, how to save money, and ways to improve classroom performance.

"The long-term goal is to look at how we could recommend some efficiencies in the school system to help accomplish the level of excellence everyone wants from the school system," said James Dyke, Co-Chair of the task force.

The short term goal is to address ways to cut the school district's multi-million dollar budget deficit.

"We're going to make some recommendations as to where those reductions can be made or what additional funds could be put into the school system," he added.

According to the school district, more than $50 million in cuts have been made to Richmond Public Schools in the last 5 years --  including a reduction in school counselors, teaching positions, athletics, transportation and professional development.

"So it gets to the point you cut and you cut until you can't cut anymore, ultimately this has a negative impact on our students," said Dawn Page, Chairperson with Richmond Public School Board.

Page says a list of additional items are now being eyed to balance the budget.

"Furloughs, reduction in contracts, reduction in pay -- health insurance," she added.

Many Parents are worried including Daureen Price.

"They're going to have to get the money from somewhere. These are our children. We'd like them to be educated more than we were educated when we were in the system" said Price.

Everyone agrees, excellence in the classroom is a priority.

A goal that may be a bit harder to achieve when faced with a $24 million deficit.

"These are tough times and people need to recognize that - we don't have all the money we'd like to have which means you have to spend the money you do have effectively and efficiently to accomplish your goal," said Dyke.

The task force has five more meetings scheduled and is expected to submit its recommendation to the mayor within the next few weeks.\

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