Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney could use taxes to fund a school facilities plan if the House of Delegates version of the schools modernization mandate becomes law.
The two bills in the General Assembly that would require Stoney to present a fully funded schools facilities plan differ in whether or not the mayor can raise taxes to do so.
House of Delegates Bill 1409 from Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would ax the provision passed by Richmond voters in November that the mayor couldn’t raise taxes to fund a facilities plan. Senate Bill 750 from Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, would keep the requirement.
“To me, we would be in a better position if the mayor, City Council and School Board have as many options on the table as possible,” Bourne said. “I wouldn’t want to handcuff the local government to explore all options to build these schools for our children.”
Stoney, who opposed the referendum measure, prefers the House bill.
“The mayor believes Delegate Bourne’s version is an improvement,” the mayor’s spokesman, Jim Nolan, said Tuesday.
A September poll conducted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Christopher Newport University showed that 64 percent of Richmond residents support a tax increase for new and renovated schools, compared with 30 percent who said they would oppose a tax increase.
Richmond voters overwhelmingly passed the school facilities plan measure in November with 85 percent of the vote. The referendum measure said the fully funded plan “cannot be based on the passage of new or increased taxes.”
Sturtevant’s bill keeps that language, while Bourne’s bill does not. All other aspects of the two bills are the same.
Stoney would have until Jan. 1, 2019, to present a plan that would modernize all 44 of Richmond’s schools, buildings that have suffered from years of deferred maintenance, or say it can’t be done. Once the plan is presented, the City Council would have 90 days to take action.
The Richmond School Board last month approved a five-year facilities plan that modernizes some schools, but not all. Modernizing all schools over 20 years would cost about $800 million, according to plans presented to the school board.
Stoney has delegated the process of creating a funding plan for the first phase of a facilities plan to the Education Compact, his major education initiative that’s made up of three components. The funding proposal will be presented by March 1, according to his office’s action plan to address problems found in a review of city hall.
Paul Goldman, the architect of the referendum measure, said Tuesday he supports the original language, which is included in the Senate bill.
“The goal remains to help these children and to fix this intolerable situation,” said Goldman, a longtime Democratic strategist who recently advised Joe Morrissey in his 2016 campaign for mayor.
The Senate bill has been referred to the local government committee while the House bill has yet to be referred.