In a reconvened meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Little Rock Board of Directors voted to defer its vote on Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s proposed $276 million budget for 2020 until Dec. 3. The board also voted to defer a resolution that would allow the city to contract with Ace Glass Recycling for residential curbside glass recycling services.
City directors Capi Peck, Ken Richardson, Vice Mayor B.J. Wyrick and at-large director Gene Fortson were all absent from Tuesday’s meeting, and Scott said their absence meant the board would not have the minimum number of members it needs to vote on the budget and glass recycling resolutions.
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A few people encouraged city directors to vote against the glass recycling resolution, including two residents from the South End neighborhood of Little Rock, who said the monthly $3.29 fee that would be charged to residents for the service is a “hardship fee” that would be prohibitively expensive on top of the city’s $28.90 monthly solid waste fee, especially for low-income residents.
Directors also discussed the allocation of what Scott described as a “targeted” $500,000 for the creation of a “community schools” model for the Little Rock School District, which the mayor proposed in October in response to conflict between LRSD teachers and families and the state Board of Education. The money for the community schools initiative would come from the $4.7 million allocated to the city’s Prevention, Intervention and Treatment programs for Little Rock youth.
At-large director Joan Adcock asked the mayor to define the community schools model as well as the “wrap-around” services the model purports to provide for students and families of such schools. Scott said the community school model is “something that’s not foreign to the nation in regards to assisting challenging schools within local school districts and providing wrap-around services.” He said the schools are often in low-income, distressed areas or have low school “grades” because of “things that may be happening in the community,” including “poverty, food insecurity [and] health insecurity.” Scott said the “wrap-around services” could include programs that ensure children have three meals a day, and also services “as complex” as ensuring that social and mental health workers are available in schools to help students experiencing trauma or mental health issues.
Both Scott and Ward 3 director Kathy Webb pointed out that the Children Youth and Families Commission, which oversees the distribution of Prevention, Intervention and Treatment funds and of which Webb is a voting member, has long prioritized these kinds of programs to receive funding from the city. Scott and Webb said many of the programs and services already funded by PIT money will continue to do so under the community schools model, but a designated amount — potentially Scott’s target of $500,000 — would be attributed specifically to the community schools effort.
“From my perspective, as somebody who’s been on this commission since I’ve been here… [the fact] that we’re actually even really focusing more on these particular schools and communities, I think is something to be applauded, and that we’re digging in the way we are… is a good thing,” Webb said. “I think it’s a positive thing, and I’m glad that [Scott] stepped up a few months ago. I think this is what the commission has been working towards over the last 18 months or so, to really be focused and make sure every program, every tax payer penny that we spend, is if not evidence based, close to it. We’re spending money on programs that work so these kids can reach their full potential.”
At-large director Dean Kumpuris and Adcock both said they supported such an effort, but wanted an exact percentage or amount to be allotted within the PIT budget for the community schools. Ward 6 director Doris Wright added that she supports the community schools initiative, saying “we’re not changing anything other than … just improving” the services available to the students and families of the community schools.
Scott told reporters after the meeting that he was excited to see the board on “one accord” about the community schools issue.
The board will vote on the 2020 budget and the glass recycling contract at next week’s meeting on Dec. 3, which starts at 6 p.m.