Special task force tackles school budget shortfall

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond teachers could face furlough days and students could take GRTC buses to school, under plans discussed by the Mayor's school budget task force.

The special task force met Monday to talk about ways to reduce spending and provide a better education in the city. In addition to possible furlough days, were discussions on how to more effectively spend money on supplies, equipment, and outsourcing services.

The task force discussed several ways to cut costs. One way is consolidating services between the City and Richmond Public Schools, including food services, budgeting, health care, and transportation. Members considered allowing some high school students to ride GRTC buses to school to help reduce the budget. GRCT may need an extra 40 buses to make this happen, however, this brought up a safety concern among the school board.

"Today's bus system does not support that," said School Board Vice Chairman, Maurice Henderson. "It's for a completely different population."

Chief of Staff for the Mayors Office, Suzette Denslow, says it's one way to cut a lot of money out of the budget. The task force also re-evaluated services the school outsources. Buying supplies in bulk with other school systems in the state could also be helpful.

"Exactly. It's for procurement. Buying in bulk and using the best price is the way to go," said Denslow.

This could also keep the school system from holding supplies and equipment in big buildings all over town. The task force talked about giving several buildings back to the city. Depending on the location and value, the cash would then go back into the school system. Denslow says it could be a huge incentive.

"I think it's attractive to the school system to surplus unused properties, because they don't have to maintain the properties," Denslow added. "They're not distracted by that and the property is put to good use."

Education leaders and city officials also talked about putting health plans to good use. Denslow says combining health benefits between the city and school system saves about $1.5 a year. The task force also talked about offering medical needs for children in school so they can receive the education they need.

"Health care is one of the areas the city and the school system have worked on and we're trying to drive those costs down to get the best bang for the buck," Denslow noted.

The task force will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss more budget plans. We should have a better idea on what exactly members will decide in the next week or two. This will also give the superintendent time to look over the details.

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