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Parents concerned to learn Petersburg schools are missing money

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg city leaders are working to come up with a plan to pay the city's school system the $2.7 million by the end of next month.

Interim City Manager Tom Tyrrell said city leaders only recently found out about the deficit and money owed to schools.

Tyrrell blamed the city's broken financial process. One that has been in place for more than a decade.

"The problem we have is when you actually make the cash payments, in prior years, of Fiscal Year '16 and Fiscal Year '15, they didn't make the payments on time, and they drug into the new fiscal year. When you accrue cash payments back, it creates a deficit in the current fiscal year," he said.

Two payments are already scheduled between now and the end of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

But that still leaves $1.9 million that city leaders need to pay.

"The issue is not about paying them the amount of money we promised, it's about when. We don't want to make the payments late again, we want to stop that process and that's what we're struggling to do. We want to make sure that we go by the budget as it was appropriated during the year it was appropriate at for," he said.

Jantyle Jefferson. the mother of two children in Petersburg Public Schools, said these funding issues are troublesome, especially because students already deal with resource issues in the classrooms.

"You want your kids to get the best education they can. If the teachers aren't happy and aren't being paid, the schools aren't trying what they need, the kids aren't getting what they need," said Jefferson.

Jefferson said her elementary school son has to deal with overcrowded classrooms and lack of one-on-one time with teachers. She said the $1.9 million could help school leaders address these problems.

"It's a struggle because you think about moving your kids, and it's a struggle because this is your district and this is all we have," she said.

Tyrrell said the goal was to come up with the $1.9 million by the end of the fiscal year. Otherwise the city could face state penalties for not meeting the minimum $8.4 million funding requirement for schools.

City leaders will meet over the next several days in hopes of coming up with a recommendation for City Council.

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