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Richmond City Council members agree to increase schools budget, differ on how much
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Richmond City Council members agree to increase schools budget, differ on how much

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Only $5 for 5 months

Richmond Public Schools supporters’ plea for additional funding appears to have resonated with the City Council.

A majority of council members said Tuesday that they have submitted budget amendments that would increase funding for the school district, which would receive flat funding under Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ proposed budget.

Where the council members differ is how much more they seek to give the school district. And not even being discussed yet is what cuts they will make elsewhere in the budget to fund the increase for schools.

“I think we’re going to end up with a number of amendments keeping various levels of funding for Richmond Public Schools,” said Councilman Parker C. Agelasto.

Of the nine council members, Agelasto, Jonathan T. Baliles and Charles R. Samuels said they submitted budget amendments that would provide the full $18 million funding increase for operations that was requested by the school district.

Two other council members, Kathy C. Graziano and Ellen F. Robertson, said they submitted budget amendments that would give schools a $5 million increase, which they said is enough to allow school administrators to provide raises to longtime employees whose salaries were compressed during the recession and who are now paid on par with new hires.

Baliles, who is running for mayor, said he also submitted amendments providing $5 million for teacher salaries and an additional $2.3 million for the district’s academic improvement plan in case the full funding measure doesn’t have enough support.

“They can be considered separately or together,” he said.

Council members Cynthia I. Newbille, Michelle R. Mosby and Chris A. Hilbert said they planned to support an increase for schools but were not yet ready to discuss the particulars of what they had proposed.

“I think people can rest assured that there will be some additional money for RPS,” said Hilbert, who is weighing a run for mayor.

Mosby, a mayoral candidate, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Everybody’s working to see how we can work with schools,” she said. “My idea of life is to make the city whole, so whatever we can do to make the city whole, that’s the goal that I have.”

Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell said she submitted a $200,000 increase for the school system earmarked for Summer Hill/Ruffin Road Elementary School in her South Side district. But she said she will support a broader increase proposed by her colleagues.

Richmond Public Schools is considering closing Armstrong High School and four elementary schools and consolidating three specialty schools if the city does not increase its funding allocation.

The deadline for council members to submit budget amendments for processing by council staff members was Monday at 5 p.m., just before a packed public hearing that had 76 speakers, all advocating for increased funding for the school district.

“After last night, it’s clear what the people think the priority is as opposed to the mayor’s budget,” Baliles said.

Council members have not yet seen their colleagues’ proposals. The council staff typically collects all proposed amendments and works to identify overlap before releasing a full list of proposals.

Steve Skinner, the council’s spokesman, said a full list of proposed amendments will be provided Monday, when the council is scheduled to begin debating the possible changes. A second discussion of amendments is scheduled for April 28.

During those sessions, which can last hours, council members vote on individual amendments and the cuts necessary to fund them.

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