Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mayor Stoney, Governor McAuliffe announce Vision To Learn to Provide Free Eye Exams and Free Glasses to Students in Richmond Public Schools


Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and are proud to announce an initiative to provide thousands of Richmond public school students with free vision care, through a collaboration between nonprofits Vision To Learn and Conexus. The effort, which began October 26th at Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary School, will provide free vision screenings to over 20,000 students, and eye exams and glasses to over 7,000 students in Richmond.

“If you can’t see, you can’t read. And if you can’t read, you can’t succeed,” said Mayor Stoney. “Richmond is grateful for this partnership and proud to be the first Virginia community in which every child, K-12, will be provided the glasses they need to achieve inside and outside of the classroom.”

Over 7,000 kids in Richmond go to school every day without the glasses they need to see the board, read a book or participate in the classroom. Conexus will provide vision screenings to every child in Richmond Public Schools. Vision To Learn will provide each child who did not pass the initial screening with an eye exam, and if needed then, glasses.

“We’re delighted to provide kids in Richmond the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life,” said Vision To Learn Founder and Chairman, Austin Beutner. “Vision To Learn serves kids in more than 200 cities from Baltimore to Hawaii. We look forward to working with Governor McAuliffe, Mayor Stoney, Richmond Public Schools, and Conexus to help kids in Richmond.”

“As a longtime provider of vision screenings to students in Richmond, Conexus knows that thousands of RPS students need an eye exam and glasses. This partnership will help those students get the help they need,” said Conexus Chairman of the Board Mrs. Roxane Gilmore.

The initiative is supported with funding by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Robins Foundation, and Richmond Community Foundation.

“Launching this program in Richmond is the first step toward ensuring that our students have all of the tools they need to succeed in the classroom,” said Governor McAuliffe, who signed legislation this year codifying routine and high-quality eye exams in public schools in Virginia. “Across the Commonwealth, an estimated 100,000 students lack eyeglasses. That’s why the work of organizations like Conexus and Vision to Learn is so critical. Through efforts like these, we can help thousands more students obtain the skills needed to thrive in the new Virginia economy.”

Students with untreated vision problems often struggle at school, and are less likely to achieve reading proficiency by third grade, putting them at greater risk of dropping out.
“Students who need glasses and don’t have them, are at a learning disadvantage,” said RPS Interim Superintendent Thomas Kranz. “Eyeglasses distributed today and throughout this program are one of the most important tools in creating a better educational experience for our students.”

The centerpiece of Thursday’s launch event was students receiving and trying on their glasses for the first time. Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary is the first school to be served by this effort; over the past month, all 389 students were screened and 32% were found to have a potential vision problem. 104 students received eye exams, and 97 were prescribed glasses.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

City of Richmond Partnering with OpenGov to Improve Budget Management Capabilities and Financial Reporting


Today, the City of Richmond announced it is partnering with OpenGov, a leading data management vendor specializing in government budgeting, reporting and operational performance technologies. The partnership was established to further increase budgetary effectiveness, transparency and accountability. 

OpenGov will be integrated with the city’s existing financial system and provide a cloud-based platform featuring uses for budgeting and both budget and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) reporting. 

“This partnership provides our city government with a means to improve services and build public trust,” said Jay Brown, the Director of Budget and Strategic Planning. “This improved technology will allow us to streamline our budget development process, make numerous enhancements in terms of innovation and improve collaboration across city departments.”

On average, the more than 1,600 city, county and state governments using OpenGov have cut the time spent building their budgets by half, and the time spent preparing subsequent budget and financial reports by 80 percent. 

Richmond will now be able to seamlessly compile and compare multiple years of data, for example, as opposed to manually assembling vast amounts of numbers and figures within cumbersome and outdated spreadsheets still in use by many governments. This in turn will free up more city resources to be invested in and reallocated to other public services.

“Bottom line,” added Lenora Reid, Richmond’s DCAO for Finance and Administration, “this will be utilized to ensure our CAFRs are submitted on time and to further increase both transparency and accountability.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

Richmond’s Tax Amnesty Program Results in Over $2.79 Million in Signed Commitments and Payments for Delinquent Taxes


Mayor Levar M. Stoney today declared Richmond’s 2017 tax amnesty initiative an overwhelming success, resulting in signed commitments or payments for delinquent taxes in an amount totaling nearly $2.8 million (over $2.79 million).

“We chose to offer an incentive before initiating more aggressive collection measures for delinquent taxes,” said Mayor Stoney. “Taxes pay for our schools, public safety and other critical needs; we took this initiative to increase our revenues now, and it worked.”

Those owing real estate, business personal property (excluding vehicles), business license, admissions, meals and/or lodging taxes, as of February 1, 2017, had an opportunity to pay the original tax amount owed, with all penalties and interest waived. The amnesty program lasted two months, from August 15 through October 16. Vehicle personal property taxes and vehicle license taxes and fees were not eligible for the program.

The full balance due (less penalties and interest) had to either be paid in full by October 16, or a 6-month payment plan with 25% down must have been arranged for those deemed eligible. The $2.79 in payments and payment commitments exceeded the city’s tax amnesty collection goal by over $390,000.

Richmond spent a fraction of the state’s marketing and advertising budget for the state-wide tax amnesty program still underway, and less than was originally budgeted by the city’s Finance Department to promote the initiative. Richmond invested just over three percent of the nearly $2.8 million secured for amnesty marketing and advertising, which included use of social media advertising for the first time in the city’s history.

"I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to all the Finance Department staff members who stepped up and worked evenings and weekends to serve our taxpayers and bring in this much-needed revenue to the city," said John Wack, Director of Finance.

A full report detailing the overwhelming success of the 2017 tax amnesty program will soon be submitted to the Finance and Economic Development Committee of City Council.