RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney condemned the Richmond Public School Board’s failure to come to an agreement on the 2023 fiscal year budget.

The criticism comes days after the school board agreed to move the decision of approval to a special session, which will be held on Monday, Feb. 28.

“These past two years have been tough for out RPS families, and the children of RPS,” Stoney said in a briefing on Thursday. “And they need us now more than ever.”

Mayor Stoney went on to detail his own priorities for the 2023 budget, the three primary focuses being public education, public safety and city employees and services.

“We’ve been working on our budget since October,” Stoney explained. “Nearly every other agency’s requests were submitted and reviewed roughly a month ago. It is disappointing that the one body whose primary job is to put children first has not been able to stop fighting amongst themselves,”

The Mayor went on to emphasize his commitment to education and his intention to provide significant new funding to the RPS should they agree on a budget.

“We want to do more,” Stoney explained, “but we need some indication of where this money is going to go.”

Richmond Public School board member Jonathan Young contacted 8News in response to Stoney’s comments. He said in an email, “Mr. Stoney should appreciate that there are members of the school board working diligently around the clock to reduce the ask of the taxpayers.”

“The superintendent’s proposed budget including a $22 million year-over-year increase from city taxpayers cannot be justified given receipt of millions in dollars from the Federal government,” Young claimed. “Our per capita student expenditure — if the superintendent’s budget had passed — would have amounted to nearly $21,000 a year.”

“This School Board member will not agree to an irresponsible ask of the taxpayers nor will my colleagues who voted down the Superintendent’s budget acquiesce to a request to rubber stamp a $554.4 million proposal,” Young concluded.

Other announcements

In today’s briefing, Stoney also provided updates on Richmond’s COVID-19 response, most notably that the city’s current seven-day average of new daily cases stands at 45.

Per the CDC’s new guidelines, Stoney implored the public to get their vaccinations and booster shots, and asked for all present to join him in a moment of silence for the 450 lives lost due to the pandemic.

The mayor also made a joint announcement with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Director Chris Frelke that the city would be opening four new or renovated community centers with its recent $78 million investment.

Lastly, the mayor invited Christie Peters from Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) to speak who announced there would be free pet vaccine clinics for the month of March.