Residents conflicted over possible tax increase for VB’s full-day kindergarten plan


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — More elementary schools in Virginia Beach are one step closer to having a full day kindergarten program on campus.

On Tuesday, school board members voted “yes” to ask City Council for $5 million in order to do that. However, that vote didn’t come without controversy.

Many people spoke out against requesting that money and said the funds should come from the district’s own budget, which is nearly a billion dollars. They’re concerned if City Council can’t find the money to expand the program, then a tax increase will be likely.

Residents didn’t hold back their thoughts when speaking to board members.

“I think it’s outrageous – outrageous that you’re considering asking for another increase,” one woman said.

“Please, in a $900 million budget you can’t find $5 million to do full day kindergarten? I’m really shocked and someone needs to check your accounting,” said Dianna Howard, the Virginia Beach Tea Party Chair.

Just two years ago, the board asked the city for $14 million to gradually expand the full day kindergarten program. They only received $6.75 million and the money came through a tax increase. Board member Dan Edwards told 10 On Your Side the district needs the extra funding to finish out the program, but that’s not sitting well with residents who said the district hasn’t been good stewards of money in the past.

“In the past two years, there’s been a $44 million surplus. That could’ve been used to pay for that,” parent Michelle Rilee said.

The residents weren’t alone. There were also some opposing comments from board members themselves.

“According to our own resolution that we’re going to send over there, is that we are asking for our taxpayers to foot the bill,” said Carolyn D. Weems, a board member representing the Bayside district. “It’s just to speed it up a year and I just can’t get my mind around raising taxes for that.”

However, other board members said they wouldn’t be asking for more money now if they’d received the full $14 million back in 2016.

In a 7-3 vote, the resolution passed and there was an audible sigh in the room.

“I think if they have been given the full $14 million, they would’ve used it somewhere else anyway,” Rilee said.

Other residents said the fight unanticipated over yet.

“We will be talking to city council. We’ll rally the troops,” Reid Greenmun said.

Some of the board members who voted for the resolution said extra money in the past was spent on new school buses, special education programs and improving school safety measures in the district.

Another member also said it’s important to note that $43 million of the district’s budget is allocated for unfunded mandates. That means that money is spent on things that the state and federal government requires the district to do but funding for those mandates is not provided.

We will follow this story as it heads to city council.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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