Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mayor’s Task Force Closes Schools’ Budget Gap


~ Long-term issues to be addressed as work continues ~

The Mayor’s Schools Accountability and Efficiency Review Task Force today completed the first phase of its review of the Richmond Public Schools’ budget gap of $23.8 million, and closed the gap with recommendations that exempted teacher layoffs and focused on non-instructional efficiencies.

In its report the Task Force prioritized efficiencies in non-instructional programs and recommended several areas for managed competition. Some managed competition initiatives could take more than a year to implement, but will provide for long-term savings.

The recommendations include, in part:

 - Immediate hiring freeze to place the decision of filling each position subject to the review and approval by the Superintendent;

-  Reduction of 50 non-teacher positions across the school system, of which up to 27 are vacant;

  - Immediate in-house reform of transportation to reduce the number of routes and reduce overtime hours;

-  Engaging in a managed competition process for plant management services and security services;

- Elimination of the proposed employee bonus;

- Renegotiation of the ten largest vendor contracts;

 - Continued review of shared services and department consolidations with the City of   Richmond; and

- Audits of the procurement and transportation departments.

Also included in the recommendations was $500,000 for an Education Investment Fund endorsed by the Mayor.

The Task Force, co-chaired by James W. Dyke, Jr., and Eva Teig Hardy, was commissioned to review the schools’ spending and operations to identify efficiencies, potential consolidations with the city government, and other changes to management practices that could yield savings to the system. The Task Force then secured the services of the Robert Bobb Group and Alvarez and Marsal, and preliminary recommendations were presented last week.

The Task Force singled out two recommendations for added action through additional State or City funds. These items were:

-  A potential reduction of 25 instructional aides; and

A potential elimination of General Fund support of summer school

These two items would have saved a total of $1.7 million, but the Task Force and the Mayor agreed that they would seek the additional funding to remove them from consideration.

“The recommendations that were brought forward today illustrate what can happen when fiscal issues are addressed with a sense of innovation and urgency. I’m pleased that we have a set of recommendations that should not affect any currently employed teacher or negatively impact classroom learning,” said Mayor Jones. “The Task Force and the Robert Bobb Group have worked quickly and decisively, and we are now preparing to present our recommendations to City Council.”

As part of the Task Force’s second phase, it will look at academic benchmarks, and ways to improve educational achievement and outcomes.

Full details of the Task Force’s work will be presented to City Council on Thursday, April 19, at 5 p.m.