Read the letter that the Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools sent to residents yesterday below: We are not commenting on if we support this or not, this is just us presenting the idea that Kamras has proposed.
“Today I am asking the Council to enlarge the pie for our children by restoring Richmond’s property tax rate to its pre-recession level: $1.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. To offset the burden this would place on low-income families, I propose a rebate program for residents below a certain income level. And I’m open to any other sensible policies to make sure we don’t place an undo burden on small businesses, which have been the engine of Richmond’s recent economic expansion.
This proposal would likely raise something on the order of $20 million per year for our schools. I recommend we use 2/3 of this new revenue for operating costs and 1/3 to finance debt for new school construction.
I recognize that raising property taxes might be the least popular thing an elected official can do. And I recognize it means less hard-earned money in people’s pockets.
But I’m asking the Council and the City to support this nonetheless. Let’s move beyond impassioned speeches about the need to do something. Let’s just do it.
Let me take this opportunity to directly address three of the arguments that I already know will be marshaled against this proposal:
1) RPS doesn’t need more money; it needs better management – I firmly believe it needs both. On the management side, I have tried to demonstrate over the last several months that I take this responsibility very seriously. I brought in an entirely new senior leadership team, cut 30 positions from the central office, removed a number of individuals who were not performing adequately, reconciled our capital accounts with the City, called for a finance and operations audit (which we’re beginning to implement), and added an auditor position. And I’m just getting started. During this budget cycle, I intend to slash millions of dollars currently being wasted on ineffective initiatives and reallocate those resources to people and programs that have a proven track record of success.
2) What exactly does RPS need the money for? Does it even have a plan? – Indeed we do. As noted above, it’s called Dreams4RPS and we developed it in close collaboration with stakeholders over the last several months. After more than 170 community meetings and the participation of over 3,000 people, we have a bold plan for the future built around five key priorities: 1) Exciting and Rigorous Teaching and Learning; 2) Skilled and Supported Staff; 3) Safe and Loving School Cultures; 4) Deep Partnership with Families and Community; and 5) Modern Systems and Infrastructure. You can read the full plan here.
3) RPS already spends more per student than the counties; why does it need even more? Because our students have much greater needs than those in Henrico, Hanover, or Chesterfield. Our student poverty rate is roughly twice what it is in Chesterfield and Henrico, and almost three times what it is in Hanover. The research on educating children who grow up in poverty is painfully clear: it’s dramatically more expensive.
I am certain that many Richmonders – including some of our elected officials – will tell me that we need to take more time to think this through, do some more studies, and think about other sources of revenue. I’ve heard this now for almost an entire year. Our children, families, and staff can’t wait any longer.
As Dr. King so famously said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
Let us rise beyond our painful past as the former Capital of the Confederacy and take this desperately needed action to create a more just and equitable future for our children – and let us do it with the fierce urgency of now.
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