Morrissey, Mosby square off on financing RPS

 Mayoral candidate Michelle Mosby attacked fellow candidate Joe Morrissey’s education plan, stating that he has consistently failed.

RICHMOND, Va.– The mayoral candidates’ education plans were held under scrutiny at Monday’s televised mayoral debate at the Altria Theatre, but candidate Michelle Mosby directly put fellow candidate Joe Morrissey’s plan at the chopping block.

Morrissey’s basis revolves around a rewrite in the historic tax code, which he claims will free approximately $300 million to go towards Richmond Public Schools.

“We could put $300 million, just as Jack spoke about revitalizing downtown… With tax credits, historic tax credits, both state and federal,” Morrisey said.

The historic tax code currently includes the clause that says schools can not benefit from funds allocated for restoration unless the building is sold to a private company and then leased back to RPS, which requires investors with $100 million in their pockets. Paul Goldman, former democratic party chair who has worked with Virginia Senator Tim Kaine on the issue, said it will be an easy fix.

“[Kaine] has been waiting for a locality to really take the lead on this. A politician has to be able to say, ‘Hey look, I have constituents, this is a problem, help me solve it,’” Goldman said in a phone interview. He continued to explain that Morrissey would represent that locality if elected, and that his plan depends on the chance that Kaine will become the next Vice President of the United States.

Mosby attacked the plans Morrissey proposed while he was on the Education Committee in the House of Delegates, and said he had repeatedly failed. She said that her plan keep the conversation between the schools’ leadership first, and not “go across the street,” will be more effective and simple.

“I took it to the current mayor, and his analysis said that we do the taxes and we get there. I see it a different way,” Mosby said. “I’ve had conversations about public-private partnerships to see how we can might can circumvent some of the issues that the debt causes.”

Tommy Kranz, RPS chief operating officer, and David Myers, RPS chief financial officer, said that facility studies have been done in collaboration with RPS leadership to determine the overall financial need.

“The district undertook a facilities study about two years ago because we were struggling with the mechanical systems,” Kranz said. “We brought in an outside consultant to do comprehensive work with the committee, board, city council and citizens.”

The latest education budget proposed by current Mayor Dwight Jones offers schools $5.5 million per year when the need is $18 million for basic upkeep, so the districts continue to scramble for dollars.

Kimberly Gray, RPS school board member and city council candidate, said that budgets act as a moral bind to serve the need in education.

“We have the lip services from our elected that say that education is a priority but we need to be explicit in how we budget,” Gray said. “That will be the litmus test in how we judge newly elected officials.”