Portsmouth council votes to approve school funding formula, although it falls $600K short of school division’s request this year


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Despite a request by the Portsmouth School Board chairman to delay a vote on the school funding formula, City Council voted Tuesday to approve the formula as-is.

School Board Chairman Claude Parent met with Mayor John Rowe ahead of the council meeting Tuesday to express concern over approving the funding formula at this time, as it will determine set levels of funding the school division will receive, according to a letter sent to staff by from Superintendent Elie Bracy III.

The school division had been “negotiating” the terms of the funding formula with the city, which “have not been as mutually beneficial” as the school division hoped, the letter said.

The school division has asked for $1.1 million in additional city funds for the upcoming year, but instead the draft funding formula only would give $500,000 in additional funding each year.

Last year, the school division requested $2.6 million.

City Council voted to approve the funding formula Tuesday as-is. Only Councilman Shannon Glover voted to defer, according to a school spokesperson.

The approval came despite a formal request to table to vote until March 10. The formal request said delaying the vote would allow the funding formula committee to reconvene and bring a recommendation to City Council at the March 10 meeting.

Here is the full letter to staff from Bracy sent Tuesday:

Good afternoon, colleagues –

I want to update you on some work that has been ongoing regarding our future budget development.

Tonight, City Council is scheduled to vote on a funding formula that will determine set levels of funding the school division will receive each year. Ideally, funding formulas help to provide consistency for both school divisions and cities, and they help to address unease that can come each year during budget season requests.

For the past several months, we have been working with the city to negotiate the terms of this funding formula. Sadly, these talks have not been as mutually beneficial as we would have hoped. The last draft of the funding formula that Board members were presented on Feb. 10, 2020 would only provide the school division roughly $500,000 in additional funding each year. To put that number in perspective, this year, we are requesting $1.1 million in additional city funds. Last year, we requested $2.6 million.

Consequently, we have put in a formal request to table tonight’s vote on the funding formula. We are hopeful that Council will honor this request and allow us to come back to its March 10 meeting for a new recommendation.

That said, even if this formula passes through Council tonight, we will continue to advocate for the levels of funding we need to provide competitive wages for you; to have the cutting edge technology, materials and resources available in our classrooms; and to ensure our buildings are the safest and most welcoming environments for our students, staff and visitors to Portsmouth Public Schools.

As always, I thank you for your support of our division and for all that you do for the children of our city.

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