School Board to start work on Kamras’ proposed $341M budget

Ronald E. Carrington | 1/21/2021, 6 p.m.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras presented to the School Board Tuesday night a $341 million proposed budget for the …
Mr. Kamras

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras presented to the School Board Tuesday night a $341 million proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The proposal for the combined operational and capital improvement budget is anchored by a $9 million increase in local and state funds and includes raises across the board for teachers and other employees. It also invests in social and emotional support for students and families because of the pandemic, as well as COVID-19 safety measures that would be funded largely by forthcoming federal CARES Act aid.

The federal stimulus money, once spent, will not be replenished year after year. According to Mr. Kamras, last year’s CARES Act funds allowed Richmond Public Schools to purchase 22,000 Chromebook laptop computers and 6,000 hot spots to launch RPS’ 100 percent virtual school system that many thought would not be possible a year ago.

Increased funding from the city and state in the coming fiscal year would assist in paying for increases in employee health premiums, as well as cover a proposed 2 percent raise and 1.17% step increase for all RPS employees.

“We anticipate about $4 million in new state revenue next year and about $5 million in new city revenue next year,” Mr. Kamras told the board. “Those numbers are lower than what the district has seen in previous years as a result of the pandemic’s impact on tax revenue.”

However, he assured the board, the district will receive $55 million from the latest round of federal stimulus assistance. He wants some of that money held in reserve.

“During the course of the spring of this year, $16 million will be used now while holding in reserve $25 million for the 2023 school year,” Mr. Kamras proposed to the board. “We will save $14 million for the following year to ensure the district will be able to continue investments started this year.”

Additionally, Mr. Kamras’ budget plan also includes year-round school for 5,000 students who have possible fallen behind. That is expected to cost about $8 million and will provide an additional 40 days or more of learning for RPS’ highest need students, as well as more support for English as a second language, special education students and pre-school students.

Previous board members supported year-round school and extending instructional time up to 40 additional days as students transitioned from in-person instruction to virtual learning.

“Superintendent Jason Kamras’ budget proposal is precisely what the doctor ordered,” School Board Vice Chair Jonathan M. Young told his colleagues Tuesday night.

“I commend him on the forward-looking budget proposal aimed at COVID mitigation that rightly prioritizes year-round school, adding instructional days for 5,000 students, teacher retention and overdue capital improvements.”

The School Board will have its first budget work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.