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More Richmond schools could close to fill budget gap

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond school leaders are running out of time to make some tough decisions to deal with the district's budget shortfall.

Richmond School Board members, which seemed as if they were in a math class Thursday evening, tossed out numbers, adding, diving and lots of subtracting.

The group spent nearly four hours mulling over what to cut to close the districts $15 million budget gap after city leaders rejected their request for the money.

Before the June 4 deadline, the board must decide if they will close more schools than the four recommended by the rezoning committee. Additionally, they will decide if employees must contribute up to five percent of their salary to the state's retirement system.

However, the biggest headache came from trying to decide if the system should implement five furlough days -- or lay off more than 100 employees, including teachers.

Maurice Henderson, a school board member, said the decision was an easy one.

"I opted for furloughs over layoffs. They want as many people to remain on the front line as they can have," said Henderson. 

However, school board member Kim Gray said she won't support furloughs. In fact, Gray said that because of a shrinking student population, it is time to make the tough decision and lay off some teachers.

"We cannot maintain the same teaching staff numbers when we have less students -- especially in a budgetary crisis," said Gray. "We are going to have to reduce our staff."