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For City Schools, Kaine's Cuts Have a Familiar Ring

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Gov. Tim Kaine proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from state education last week, scaling back on such wide-ranging budget items as school construction and its portion of salaries for 13,000 jobs.

All positions are on the block — custodial workers, finance officers, human resources employees, assistant superintendents and other central office staff. Districts already nervous about eroding local funds face difficult choices about layoffs.

Richmond is no exception. But the city school system shouldn't be surprised by the governor's proposed cuts. In a series of audits and reviews over the last two years, City Auditor Umesh Dalal has recommended strikingly similar cutbacks and savings.

Many of the same areas threatened by state cuts were the focus of Dalal's reports, which made recommendations that would save tens of millions of dollars. The recommendations haven't been implemented.

“We have run into a significant amount of resistance [to audit recommendations], even if evidence was provided that existing processes and procedures were not working,” Dalal says, explaining why he believes his suggestions have not been adopted: “Changes are sometimes painful.”

A recent audit of Richmond school procurement and accounts-payable departments identified more than $6.5 million in savings, Dalal says, yet many of those savings have not been implemented.

Dalal expects consolidation studies of schools administration, finance and human resources to find additional savings. That report is due in early January, he says, “just in time for preparation of the schools budget.”

When Dalal released his audit of schools' custodial services in May 2007, he strongly suggested that many of those functions could be consolidated with the city, because mowing lawns and maintaining buildings are responsibilities the city and schools share.

Even without consolidation, the custodial audit found as much as $16 million in potential savings. Dalal says only about $4 million worth of those recommendations were implemented.

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