The Richmond Public School Board took its first real crack at hashing out the upcoming budget, Saturday afternoon. Members shot down some major cuts recommended by the superintendent, seeming reluctant to slash anything that would directly impact the classroom. However, some administrators say that with than $11.6 million shortfall to make up for, there's little left to trim, besides teacher positions.
The school board crossed out the idea of outsourcing transportation and security jobs. That proposal caused considerable unsettling among the 500 staffers who would have been affected.
The superintendent's plan also eliminated 65 teacher positions, upping class sizes. The board also vetoed that move.
"One of the things we're prepared to do is find those cuts elsewhere, that do in fact hold the classrooms harmless," said newly elected board member Glen Sturtevant.
Sturtevant says giving teachers the incentive they deserve should be a priority.
"(We want to) give teachers a healthy raise again, which simply hasn't happened since 2006," continued Sturtevant.
Sturtevant suggested that the school district's central office administration be streamlined to make up for the bulk of the budget gap.
"We need to go to central office and say ‘Look, the belt has not been tightened here in the last number of years, like it has been tightened elsewhere,'" said Sturtevant.
The school system's chief operating officer, Andy Hawkins, maintains that the administrative staff is already lean. Hawkins says administration makes up only about two percent of the budget.
"I think there's a perception in the community that RPS, or school divisions throughout the state, are top heavy. That's just not the case," said Hawkins.
The school board also decided to take another look at the rezoning issue to save money. A rezoning committee had recommended consolidating several schools last year. The former school board voted down that money-saving option.
"You would probably save $3-400,000 per school," said Hawkins of the three schools that had been proposed to be closed.
Another idea mentioned was school board members giving up some of their own stipend. Each member receives a $10,000 payment for serving on the board. The suggestion received mixed reviews.
No decisions are final. The board will continue to rework the budget, before it's voted upon. Its next work session will be Monday, at 5:30 p.m.
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