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City Slow to Collect Money for Schools

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As Mayor Dwight Jones touted the economic benefits of the Redskins training camp at his state of the city address last month, the city had yet to collect on a $100,000 payment for city schools that was part of the deal.

The payment is included in the city’s lease agreement with Bon Secours for the former Westhampton school building. Bon Secours agreed to pay the city $100,000 a year — earmarked for schools — for 10 years.

The first installment was due Jan. 2, but the city failed to bill Bon Secours, and the missing payment went unnoticed until former School Board member Carol A.O. Wolf began to investigate its whereabouts for her Save Our Schools blog.

“The project manager just assumed we were going to get a payment,” Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall told Style. “We called and asked about the payment and [Bon Secours] said, ‘Send us an invoice.’ We sent an invoice the same day,” meaning Feb. 14. Bon Secours made the payment a few days later.

Third District Councilman Chris Hilbert says that the city’s failure to collect the money on time gives him pause when considering Jones’ proposal for Shockoe Bottom, which calls for a city-financed baseball stadium.

“It’s really disappointing, when you peel away that veneer, that these things aren’t being followed up on,” Hilbert says. “It’s not an opportunity to increase tax revenues for the city when you don’t collect payments.”

Hilbert was an important vote for the Bon Secours lease in 2012 and helped broker the deal that resulted in the school payment agreement.

Second District School Board Representative Kim Gray says the six-week delay gives her pause when considering uses for other surplus properties controlled by the board. She opposed allowing the city to lease the Westhampton property to Bon Secours.

“History tells us we’re going to get the short end of the stick again if we let [unused buildings] be surplus to the city,” Gray says.

Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden says he’s in the process of taking control of the Westhampton school property invoicing directly. “We’re trying to remove the city as a middleman from the whole process,” he says.

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