Release the Funds
An Updated George Wythe Funding & RPS Budget Timeline
On Tuesday, March 22, the Richmond City Council and School Board will meet at the Main Library to discuss certain points regarding building a new George Wythe High School. Despite the clear authority of schools boards to oversee school construction as vested in the Code of Virginia, Mayor Stoney and the City Council have consistently sought to intervene and hold back funding to build a new George Wythe, including holding forth on what size the school should be and what sort of construction process should be used to build the school. The unnecessary delays and micromanagement by governmental bodies not authorized by the State to manage schools construction adds insult to injury in light of the new urgency to repair Fox Elementary School after its disastrous fire in February.
The School Board has been clear that it seeks to build schools across the district for all students as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is well past time for the City Council and the Mayor to stop the delay, and let schools build schools for RPS students. It is also well past time for City Council and the Mayor to intervene in School Board matters that are beyond the scope of Mayoral and City Council authority. Whether it’s school construction, budget timelines, budget books, or the organizational structure of Central Office, the law is clear that these decisions lie within the hands of our democratically elected school board. The Mayor and City Council should manage whatever levers are at their disposal to fund school construction, renovation, and maintenance for all students in Richmond.
July 19, 2021 — School Board approves a proposal calling for RPS to issue an RFP for George Wythe High School by August 21, 2021 and for Woodville High School and a Career and Technical High School by October 31, 2021. Source
August 31, 2021 — Ten days after the deadline, RPS issues RFP for George Wythe High School with submissions due October 15, 2021. Source
October 18, 2021 — School Board submits request to Mayor Stoney asking him to release funds remaining in the new school construction fund to pay for design services for George Wythe High School. Source
October 20, 2021 — Mayor Stoney announces he is withholding the $10.8 million balance in the new school construction fund needed to pay for design work for George Wythe High School until RPS officials provide him a “satisfactory” explanation for the proposed size of the school. Source
October 31, 2021 — RPS Administration does not release an RFP for Woodville Elementary School or a Career & Technical High School.
November 8, 2021 — In response to the mayor’s refusal to release the funds from the new school construction fund, the School Board votes to temporarily assign $2 million from an unassigned balance of $3.6 million in the RPS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP, e.g., the infrastructure of RPS) fund in order to pay for initial design services with the expectation that the Mayor will eventually release the funding. Source
November 9, 2021 — Mayor Stoney submits an funding ordinance (ORD. 2021–308) asking City Council to vote on whether to give RPS $7.3 million to pay for design work for George Wythe High School, but stresses that City Council should “carefully” consider whether to fund the design work. Source, Source
November 15, 2021 — The City Planning Commission recommends the funding ordinance to pay for design work for George Wythe High School for approval
January 24, 2022 — DELAY 3: City Council again delays its vote on transferring $7.3 million in funding for design services for a new George Wythe High School. Council refers the funding Ordinance to the Education and Human Services Standing Committee. Source, Source
January 18, 2022 — Superintendent Kamras introduces a $362.6 million budget for 2022–2023 school year, requesting $207.3 million from the city, a $22 million increase in last year’s funding request. Source
February 10, 2022 — The Education and Human Services Standing Committee forwards the ordinance on transferring $7.3 million in funding for design services for a new George Wythe High School to City Council with no recommendation. Source
February 11, 2022 — Fire at Fox Elementary School, resulting in an additional, unexpected construction project for RPS and massive immediate efforts to address the needs of staff and students (note that insurance should cover hopefully most of the costs of replacement). Source
February 14, 2022 — DELAY 4: City Council again delays its vote on transferring $7.3 million in funding for design services for a new George Wythe High School, despite RPS facing another new critical facility construction need. Source, Source
February 21, 2022 — Disregarding a loss of $7 million in state funding for RPS and a major crisis 10 days earlier, Mayor Stoney threatens to leave education funding identical to last years’ funding of $185.3 million if the School Board does not pass a budget by his self-selected deadline of February 25th. Source
February 28, 2022 — School Board approves budget to be submitted to City Council, requesting $201 million from the city. Source
February 28, 2022 — DELAY 5: City Council again delays its vote on transferring $7.3 million in funding for design services for a new George Wythe High School, continuing it until March, 28, 2022. Source
March 4, 2022 — Mayor Stoney proposes city budget to City Council with the same level of last year’s funding, $185.3 million, putting an extra $15 million ($1 million less than requested) in a special “contingency reserve fund” that City Council would have to pass special ordinance to permit RPS to have the money. Source
March 7, 2022 — The School Board indicates it is ready to select a vendor to provide the design services for George Wythe High School following review of the RFP. Source
March 11, 2022 — Despite the School Board approving a budget, Superintendent Kamras does not present a complete budget book to the Education and Human Services Committee. Source
March 17, 2022 — Mayor Stoney writes a letter to City Council and School Board indicating he believes that letting the City control a Construction Management At Risk process to build the new George Wythe High School and William E. Fox Elementary School — which remains the sole responsibility of the School Board — will shorten the estimated completion date of each school by two years. Source