RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Mayor Levar Stoney announced Thursday a plan that will fully fund the $800 million Richmond Public Schools facilities plan.
The announcement comes 11 days before the deadline set in place by the Virginia General Assembly after the 2017 voter-approved charter change referendum was passed earlier this year.
More than 56,000 city residents voted in support of the referendum to complete a revamp of city schools.
According to the Mayor’s school funding plan, the $800 million would be invested into the schools over the course of 20 years.
"I think it will be a good thing for the community and the school,” said Anthony Boone, whose son attends Woodville Elementary School. “My son goes to school here and a good education is what he really needs."
The news came just before Stoney’s tour of Woodville Elementary Thursday. Parents said it’s just one of the schools that’s in desperate need of an upgrade.
"I want better for my kids,” said Rashida Ruff, whose children attend the school. “I went to this school when I was younger and I want to see an upgrade from when I went to school."
“For me this is the floor not the ceiling,” Stoney said. “We hope to do more in a quicker fashion, but this, I believe, gets a number of kids in 21st century facilities in a quick amount of time.”
The announcement also comes one day after the city and Richmond Public Schools broke ground on three brand new schools for students.
That start of construction was made possible due to the $150 million investment based on the recently enacted 1.5% meals tax that is dedicated to schools.
“Starting with our $150 million investment in school facilities earlier this year, I’m proud that we were able to identify a path to fund the remaining capital plan for RPS,” Stoney said. “How can we expect our children to learn and crave knowledge when they're in facilities that do not respect them."
“In this area right here they don’t really have things that other kids have in schools,” Boone said. “It would be a really great thing for them.”
For the first five years the School Capital Funding Plan would provide $150-million; $200 million in the following five years; $212.2 million in the next five years; $237.8 million in the following five years after that.
Thursday afternoon Richmond Public School released the following statement about the announcement:
“We are pleased with the Mayor’s school funding plan and appreciate his continuous support. Back in December 2017, our school board demonstrated their commitment to our students by voting for a comprehensive facilities plan to address the needs of our aging school buildings and this plan reinforces that commitment."
Stoney said this plan, as required by the charter, will not rely on any real estate tax increases. However, the first five years will be supported by the meals tax increase which Stoney said was put in place before the Virginia General Assembly passed the charter change.
The approval of the meals tax has also allowed for a larger debt capacity.
“While education is our number one priority, this plan does not abandon our neighborhoods and streets,” Stoney said. “There remains sufficient debt capacity to tackle other infrastructure needs and other capital improvements over the next 20 years.”
The Mayor added this plan does not rely on the proposed Navy Hill redevelopment which he hopes will bring in more money for Richmond schools.
"However if the Navy Hill project were to come online and be approved by city council, that will likely allow us to get more kids into newer facilities in a quick fashion, quick amount of time," Stoney said.
An analysis of the school funding plan by the city’s financial advisers, Davenport & Company, also shows that if the project were approved, “significant revenue producing growth downtown could accelerate the funding plan by as many as five years – resulting in savings in reduced debt service costs.”
The plan is scheduled to be introduced to city council on January 14, 2019.