The greater good

3/23/2018, 9:57 a.m.

We are disappointed that Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s proposed 2018-2020 budget holds no more additional funds to fix up the city’s dilapidated schools than the revenue expected from a meals tax increase.

We supported the city meals tax increase of 1.5 percent that is estimated to generate an additional $9 million annually to leverage $150 million to construct four new schools and renovate other buildings in dire need of upgrades.

In backing the measure that was proposed by Mayor Stoney and approved by Richmond City Council, we said this was only the first step.

It is now time for City Council, which has control and approval over the city budget, to find additional money for the schools.

It is also time for the Richmond School Board and new Superintendent Jason Kamras to see what savings can be delivered from its budget package to help with school maintenance and construction. 

We are concerned, as the mayor pointed out, that $13 million allocated to Richmond Public Schools in the past  for school maintenance has gone unspent. We call on the School Board to show the public the money and to show us a plan to use it for this critical purpose.

We also see the need for the city to establish a tax on cigarettes as proposed by Councilman Parker C. Agelasto. 

While we’d like to see additional information on the impact of such a tax, we believe that the needs of the schoolchildren in the city of Richmond outweigh the special interests of companies such as Altria and convenience stores.

While the tobacco manufacturer continues to be one of the top employers in the Richmond area and donates millions of dollars to the cultural and social fabric of the city and nonprofit organizations, we believe the company will not suffer greatly if Richmond joins other jurisdictions around the commonwealth to tax the unhealthy product it produces — cigarettes. Taxing cigarettes in the city may help breathe life into our aging school buildings and advance the quality of education our RPS students receive.

Our primary concern is for the health, safety, education and well-being of the 24,000 students who attend the city’s public schools. We believe a small tax on cigarettes can add to that greater good.