Let the journey begin

2/9/2018, 10:02 p.m.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Chinese proverb

The task to improve the long-neglected, decrepit buildings in which we expect Richmond’s 24,000 public schools students to learn is a daunting one. 

The unhealthy, unsafe and deplorable conditions in many of the city’s aged school buildings have been well documented by teachers, parents and Richmond School Board members and chronicled in news accounts.

Richmond Public Schools has the public’s attention — and its support — in trying to remedy the situation as evidenced by the overwhelming approval the issue received on November’s ballot referendum calling for Richmond’s mayor to present a fully funded school facilities modernization plan.

The referendum, a change in the city’s charter, is now before the General Assembly where it will be heard shortly by the full Senate, but was rejected Wednesday by a House subcommittee.

The Richmond School Board has come up with a five-year, $224.8 million plan to address the most pressing school construction needs.

Now it’s up to Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Richmond City Council and the people of this city to rally to help out.

The journey to fix Richmond schools will take many steps. The first step, we believe and support, is approval of Mayor Stoney’s proposal to increase the city’s meals tax.

The penny and a half increase from 6 percent to 7.5 percent will generate $9.1 million annually, according to city estimates, which will allow the city to borrow up to $150 million for new school construction.

Will that fund the School Board’s five-year vision for capital improvements?


Is it a perfect proposal?


But it’s a start — and we believe it’s a step in the right direction.

Some Richmond restaurateurs are opposed to the increased meals tax and believe their patrons will flee and take their business to the counties.

But we believe that Richmond’s vibrant restaurant scene will continue to thrive even with the minimal meals tax hike that would add only about 75 cents to the total cost of a $50 meal for two.

By using the meals tax to generate much-needed funds to support schools, people who take advantage of the city’s amenities but who don’t live here and don’t support the city schools through real estate taxes now can contribute to our schoolchildren’s well-being.

The increase also is not so onerous as to be burdensome.

We believe the mayor has come up with a plan for the greatest good for the greatest number. And we support that.

We urge City Council to vote in support of the meals tax hike.

And we look forward to the next steps in the overall vision to help our children achieve the education they deserve.