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Watchdog group: RPS spent nearly half a million on hotels, travel

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - In recent months, Richmond Public Schools has come under fire for the way it spends its money.

Earlier this year, RPS announced a $27 million budget shortfall, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions, like laying off employees and cutting programs.

That massive budget deficit gained the attention of a Michigan-based conservative educational news service. The website, EAGnews.org, filed a Freedom of Information Act specifically looking at how Richmond Public Schools spent money on hotel and travel expenses.

"Many jobs require travel and we understand that, but at the same time, you're a steward of our tax dollars," Kyle Olson, the publisher of EAGnews.org, said. "And is it really necessary to be staying at 4 and 5 star hotels."

EAG's report indicates that RPS spent nearly a half-a-million dollars at hotels from July 2010 to July 2011.

They include:

  • $52,00 at the Sheraton Park South
  • $32,000 at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg
  • $19,000 at the Crowne Plaza Richmond West
  • $10,000 at the Holiday Inn South.

The report also reveals that the school system paid six figures, $135,761, to Dalianes World Wide Travel. That's a California-based travel agency that made reservations for scheduled trips.

"I was shocked to look at eight pages of expenses related to hotel and travel," Olson said. "To think that a school district like Richmond which has laid off teachers, cut programming directly impacting students and employees.”

CBS 6 News' Sandra Jones asked Richmond Public schools why the district spent so much at some hotels, spas and resorts.

RPS spokesperson Felicia Cosby issues this statement:

“The information reported by EAG is not accurate. The organization requested a check registry which lists payments to vendors including pass-thru activities from state-operated and other programs…for which we are the fiscal agent, including the Math, Science and Innovation Center. And the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s school. Therefore, the list does not correlate to the district’s spending activity."

Stay with CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for updates on this developing story.

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