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City Schools Face $14 Million Shortfall

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Revenues are down. Funding sources are dwindling. And if the preliminary budget projections hold, the Richmond Public Schools will start the next fiscal year deep in the red. That's the gist of the budget projection introduced Dec. 6 at the biweekly meeting of the School Board.

The 2012 operating budget won't be finalized until February. But officials expect a total shortfall of $14.3 million.

Because of that gap, as many as 39 salaried positions face the chopping block. 

The number of jobs that will be eliminated, if any, could shift depending on worker attrition and how the School Board distributes federal money, says the president of the Richmond Education Association, Angela Dews.

The district received a $5.5 million federal education jobs grant in October. That money could be plugged into next year's budget, Dews says. Still, she says, the next budget is sure to be tough on everyone.

The dreaded state-funding formula — officially known as the Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay — is partly to blame. Long a point of contention, the index is the complicated formula used by the state officials to determine a school division's ability to pay its bills. The General Assembly agreed to hold individual school districts harmless for changes to the index until 2012, when schools will be held responsible for 50 percent of the total payment.

Current calculations raised Richmond's index from 0.4272 to 0.4945, reducing the state's contribution to Richmond schools' bottom line by $5.7 million. Mayor Dwight Jones and members of the School Board have called on the General Assembly to hold the LCI harmless through the next year.

“For us it's a question of how to maintain service levels while dealing with the realities of the economic crisis,” says school spokeswoman Felicia Cosby. “We're doing the best we can.”

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