The Charlottesville school division is requesting an increase of $1.3 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal year, as city officials consider how much to actually provide amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The City Council discussed the division’s funding request toward the end of its regular meeting Monday, which was held virtually.
Officials have been talking about the budget in small meetings as the pandemic has continued, and Monday was the first look at the division’s request to the city.
Earlier this year, City Manager Tarron Richardson proposed a $196.6 million budget plus a $35.3 million Capital Improvement Program and $111 million in other dedicated funds for fiscal 2021, which starts July 1.
Since then, sweeping stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic have brought the economy to a grinding halt.
In April, city officials estimated the city would lose at least $8 million in revenue over the current and upcoming fiscal year, although Councilor Lloyd Snook pondered Monday that the numbers could end up being higher. Although other governments are expecting revenue shortfalls of around 5% to 6%, Richardson’s revised proposal represents only a 2.7% loss of revenue.
The city is hoping to keep funding at nearly the same level as the adopted fiscal 2020 budget. The revised proposal is $191.2 million, a decrease of $5.4 million. Officials also expect about $3 million in losses in the current fiscal year.
To prepare for the fallout of the pandemic, officials are holding about $7.9 million in spending to cover possible revenue shortfalls. Funding for the school division would come out of that pot of money.
Richardson initially proposed $59.4 million for the school division, which is $2.1 million more than the adopted fiscal 2020 budget. It is only $1.6 million over the amended budget.
Richardson’s initial budget proposal did not include $468,000 that was provided midway through the current fiscal year to hire six teachers for the gifted education program. However, the school division crafted its spending request around the amended allocation.
Deputy City Manager Letitia Shelton said the division has requested $1.3 million in additional funding, which includes the funding for the added gifted teachers plus $875,000 for other expenses. The division still would have roughly $1 million in funding shortfalls that could possibly be covered by the federal coronavirus relief package.
Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said the division’s total deficit is $2.3 million. So far, $1 million has been cut.
The council is considering how much of the proposal to fund.
“We need to be setting up our school system for the greatest success coming out of this,” Councilor Heather Hill said.
The discussion essentially came to a halt after a loud noise from the feed of Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who subsequently disappeared from the virtual meeting although her camera was still on. The meeting then went into recess without Walker on the call. It’s unclear what occurred.
The city will advertise a budget that keeps funding at the same level as fiscal 2020, but Shelton said the council can amend the proposal afterward.
The council was still discussing the budget as of press time on Monday.
Atkins will provide a full report during a budget work session scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday.
In earlier business Monday, the council set priorities for its portion of federal coronavirus relief money.
The council unanimously approved adding the coronavirus relief package to its Community Development Block Grant action plan.
The city received $246,699 in March from the federal government through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant. The money will be allocated through the city’s CDBG program and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission HOME program.
According to federal guidelines, the extra money can be used for buildings and improvements, assistance to businesses and certain public services.
The city’s allocation will be divided into three categories: public services, economic development and administration/planning.
The first two pots will receive $98,679 and the third will receive $49,399.
The city will accept proposals through May 18. To meet federal guidelines, the money will be distributed by July 30.
The council also approved an action plan for the $419,367 in CDBG funds and $80,594 in HOME funds the city already received from HUD for assistance for housing, community and economic development activities, and assistance for low- and moderate- income persons and special-needs populations within the city.
Walker voted against the action plan, arguing for more community input and more support for low-income housing proposals.
The action plan will be considered following a public hearing of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission at 7 p.m. Friday. To participate in the virtual meeting, visit tjpdc.org/meeting-agendas/tjpdc-may-2020.
The council later unanimously designated the Ridge Street neighborhood as a priority area for $201,000 of the CDBG funds.
The council conducted a first reading of the actual appropriation of the money. A second reading will be held at the council’s May 18 meeting.
Councilor Michael Payne said allocations for the Ridge Street area will be determined by a task force.
“That application process is still open and no decisions have been made about how to spend that money,” he said.