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School Board Member 'Uncomfortable' With Mayor's Comments

Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak's recent comments about the School Board have strained relationships and Monday night at least one member said she doesn't want to have a joint work session with City Council unless problems are resolved.

The annual budget work session with the Fredericksburg School Board and City Council may not happen this year because of increasing tension with the city mayor.

School Board member Malvina R. Kay said during Monday night's meeting that she is reluctant to meet with City Council until the friction with Mayor Tom Tomzak is resolved.

"I personally would feel very uncomfortable going to the meeting and having to listen to some of the issues that he continues to raise regarding the School Board," Kay said. "I would welcome a more collegial relationship and not feel as if we are subordinates of his."

Kay said unless someone can guarantee that the two governing bodies will discuss an agenda that moves the city forward, she doesn't want to take part in any joint meeting.

School Board member Barbara Miller–Richards said there may not be a need for a joint meeting because the School Board is sending City Council a proposed fiscal year 2013 $36-million budget that is flat and does not request any additional local funding. The school system erased a $465,000 deficit mostly by not having as large of an increase in the Virginia Retirement System as expected. In the past five years, the School Board has only seen a $200,000 increase in local funding and that was last fiscal year. In the 2009-10 school year, the school system sustained a $700,000 cut. No one spoke during Monday night's public hearing.

At the Feb. 28 City Council meeting, in which he was critical of a school system program that teaches black mothers parenting skills and the local NAACP's lack of concern for "social injustices done to the children in this community by male irresponsibility." Tomzak also challenged the School Board to justify the cost of the school system's central office and he challenged School Board Chairman Jarvis Bailey to address his concerns. Bailey told a Free-Lance Star reporter that Tomzak was rambling and he wasn't going to engage him in his political games.

In an email the day after Jarvis' comments were in the newspaper, Tomzak sent out an email saying that he was disappointed in Jarvis' comments and accused him of avoiding answering important questions. Tomzak said he wants Jarvis to tell the public why the school system only has a class to teach black mothers parenting skills, and not a program for all parents, to justify the positions in the central office and to "speak out against male irresponsibility."

Jarvis did not address Kay's concerns Monday night, only to say that work to repair relationships is needed.

The calls to cancel the joint meeting may be premature, especially considering City Council has yet to introduce its budget.

The city is finishing up the reassessment process after skipping last year and all indications are that property values will be lower in the city, which means less revenue from the real estate taxes unless City Council adopts changes to the Real Estate Tax rate. Add to this a consultant's proposal that the city needs to increase its water and sewer rates, and City Hall could be getting a budget shock soon.

Major dips in revenue could force City Council to make major cuts and a majority may look to the School Board to share in those cuts.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article was not clear with the direct relation between real estate taxes and assessments.

Dan Telvock March 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
TP--all indications I heard are things are bad for this assessment (if the city waited another year, I think they'd do much better). All you have to do is look at the city school's composite index going up as much as it did and the direct connection to lower real estate values. I'm not making this stuff up and I would be very suspicious if the assessment come back positive.
Dan Telvock March 06, 2012 at 05:22 PM
TP--awesome. Sorry for not being clear enough, I just thought it was obvious that the tax rate is adjusted when assessment values drop. I guess it's not and so I clarified it. But what I was told last night was that City Hall is going to have a very rough budget year...but the person was making guesstimations based on what he's heard through the halls.
TPKeller March 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I know nothing about the school budget side of this. I do know that in past years, people have used the one-side-of-the-story of the assessment process to unjustly raise concern. That's why I always push for correct use of the two completely different terms, "taxes" and "tax rates". This poor horse... she's about dead now... :-)
Dan Telvock March 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Putting a stake through this .. now
Dan Telvock March 06, 2012 at 05:33 PM
but you're probably going to pay more in your tax bill, my friend :)

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