Teacher raises, central office cuts are key to Kamras’ proposed 2022-23 RPS budget

Ronald E. Carrington | 1/20/2022, 6 p.m.
Richmond teachers would get a 5 percent raise, the largest in years, while 33 new people would be added to ...
Mr. Kamras

Richmond teachers would get a 5 percent raise, the largest in years, while 33 new people would be added to the Richmond Public Schools payroll.

All it would take is a $22 million increase in the city’s contribution to public education, RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras told the School Board Monday night.

He spotlighted those proposals in rolling out his proposed budget for operations for the 2022-23 fiscal year that will begin July 1.

The board is expected to review the Kamras plan and make the final decision on how much to request from the city by mid-February so it can be included as part of the city’s new budget plan that will be issued in early March.

To fund the Kamras plan, Mayor Levar M. Stoney would need to propose and City Council would need approve boosting public education expenditures from the current record $185 million in local taxpayer dollars to $207 million – a 12 percent increase.

Mr. Kamras issued the proposed spending plan on a night when the board also voted 8-1 to reaffirm Mr. Kamras’ mandate requiring everyone entering school buildings to be masked, a clear rejection of new Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin’s order to leave masking decisions to parents.

Mr. Kamras said his proposal includes investing $19 million to cover Richmond’s share of 5 percent salary hike for teachers and school staff that has been proposed in the state budget the General Assembly is considering. The state does not fully cover the cost.

If approved, the pay boost would raise the average pay for city schoolteachers to around $64,000 a year, Mr. Kamras said.

He said the additional personnel dollars would enable RPS to hire 17 additional custodians, 10 new bus drivers, three social workers, two staff for the new school construction office and a new personnel office employee.

Much of the rest of the money he wants from the city would replace the $7 million he said the state is likely to pull from its educational support, based on a state formula called the Local Composite Index that is used to determine a locality’s ability to pay.

Overall, he said his budget plan increases school spending by $26 million. While he wants the lion’s share, $22 million, to come from the city, his proposal also calls for cutting central office spending by $4 million.

His plan calls for paring $1.9 million in expenses and $2.1 million in salaries for 16 positions. His proposed list of positions to be cut, as noted in the budget plans, includes one for the director of the future centers that assist high school students in making post-graduation plans; a manager of alternative education; and an associate director of curriculum and instruction.

“We really are cutting to the bone to keep schools harmless with no cuts,” Mr. Kamras said. RPS’ last cut to the central office was in 2019.

The cut in state spending is being fueled by surging property values in Richmond that have added more than $4 billion to Richmond’s reported property values. Under the state LCI formula, that makes

Richmond wealthier despite having one in four residents living in poverty and despite 70 percent of its students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch due to their families’ low income.

School Board member Liz B. Doerr, 1st District, called it unfair that far wealthier districts such as Fairfax County receive more funding per pupil than Richmond. One reason is that the formula does not subtract the value of extensive state and federal property in the state’s capital city.

Mr. Kamras said the formula does not take into account the high level of poverty within the city, though the state does provide a separate stream of funding for disadvantaged students who are at-risk for dropping out.

Still, the formula is the state’s major funding stream, and the eight other members of the School Board agreed with Ms. Doerr’s assessment.