Archived Story

Citizens: Fund schools, no tax hike

Published 11:18pm Monday, March 18, 2013

Suffolk City Council received a definitive message from a packed conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center on Monday night — fully fund the school system.

About half of the 38 speakers during the public input session pleaded with the council to fulfill the School Board’s request for $9 million in additional funding over last year’s allotment.

“Our teachers are doing way more with a lot less,” said Christopher Stoker, who spoke about halfway through the three-hour hearing. “Please let them do more with more. I’m asking you to please do what’s right and fully fund the schools.”

Many of those speaking in favor of the schools were Suffolk Public Schools employees, including several teachers, a bookkeeper, at least one principal, a former School Board member and the School Board chairman, Michael Debranski. Several parents also pleaded for full funding of the schools.

Creekside Elementary School teacher Natalie Street said she spent $1,300 of her own money on classroom supplies last year and has spent $500 so far this year.

“I can no longer afford a $1,300 or $500 school year,” she said. “Let’s work together and fully fund next year’s budget so our students can shine.”

Other speakers had varied requests and suggestions, including funding nonprofit organizations, delaying capital projects, slashing administrative salaries and departmental budgets, and holding the line on property taxes.

Janet Gurwell advocated cutting planned expenditures to renovate buildings in Whaleyville and Creekside to turn them into recreation centers, pointing out that both communities already have recreation centers.

“There are many, many places you can cut,” she said.

The meeting began with a presentation from city Budget and Strategic Planning Director Anne Seward, who presented a dire view of the upcoming financial plan. A decline in real estate values has led to a shortfall of about $2 million, she said, and increased funding requests from the schools, city departments and other agencies equal $15.2 million. The city has yet to reveal its proposed budget and has not even officially received the final version of the School Board’s budget, but council members wanted to have a meeting beforehand to gather citizens’ concerns.

As Seward spoke, city officials were working to pack about 150 attendees into the room while maintaining compliance with the fire code. As the public began to speak, employees eventually wound up opening a partition to a portion of another room and allowing about 20 more people into that space.

After the taxpayers had their say, City Council members got a chance to speak.

“You have spoken, and I have taken what you said inside of me,” Councilman Lue Ward said.

Councilman Charles Parr said he had not heard the specific suggestions he had hoped to hear, with a few exceptions.

“It’s ringing in my ears — education, no tax raise, education, no tax raise,” he said, adding later: “I’ve heard, I want this, I want that, I want this, but don’t raise taxes.”

He suggested the school system could solve the mentioned overcrowding issue by redistricting school attendance zones, and said the schools should ask teachers for suggestions to cut costs.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said she had come to listen to the taxpayers’ thoughts at the outset of the difficult budget process.

“(I’ve heard) what people want us to do and don’t want us to do,” she said.

The city manager’s budget proposal will be revealed April 3. A public information meting will be held April 10, and a public hearing will be held April 17. The City Council is expected to adopt a budget May 1.

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  • happyGoLucky

    @ Teach you bring up a very good point: “I notice you don’t mention the benefits the city workers receive…as well as the holiday they continue to get…they get Friday off for Lee/Jackson day and then Monday for Martin Luther King day. Really? Who else gets this???”

    I singled out the UNLIMITED LEAVE ACCRUAL because this is offered to ONE PERSON and one person only, the Princess Cuffe-Glenn… The days off you refer to here is applied to the entire work force and I’m not certain but I believe other cities may offer this to their workforce. Still, point well taken.

    My heart is broken because Mike Duman logged on here in another thread and it appeared he may have logged on to answer citizens questions.. but alas, he only offered up his cell phone number…However, I’m not currently in the market for a used car.

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  • happyGoLucky

    @kittykat. This mentions the unlimited leave that the princess asked for .. The subject of the article is misleading As Norfolk officials were tackling a similar issue. But it states that surprising Suffolk is the only city that allows u limited leave accrual for the city manager. As I have said please realize that this costs us over 500 dollars a day for each day she accrues. Do the math.
    http://hamptonroads.com/2008/03/norfolk-look-vacation-usage-top-officials

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  • rbatton

    As i read all the comments and agree with most i always wonder who is actually behind the comment. One thing i learned in running is nothing is as it may seem. I truly believe the biggest improvement we can make in our city is true transparency and yes be straight fwd and honest even when its not the most popular thing to do. I wonder how many folks who comment would be willing to step up and show there real name as i have done?

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    • rbatton

      And i will be the first to start “Raymond Batton”

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    • happyGoLucky

      Hi Raymond . Although it is nice to list a name you say is yours. Who are you? I have never heard if you. You have offered nothing here but your name and unfortunately it does not add nor detract from the debate here. Does it answer the questions I’ve asked of another who has logged on here with his real name? No. Posting your name without substance is not chivalrous at all. It merely adds a couple digits to the number of comments total. Maybe you can call mike and you two can respond to my questions. Does it matter who asked these questions ??? Failing to answer a question unless said author of the question provides ones PII on a public forum is disingenuous at best.

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      • rbatton

        Happygolucky . I am just a person who lives and suffolk and like many others on this site i too am concerned about the spending, Taxes and schools all the same. I do not agree with the high raises etc. The reason i wrote what i did is it is my belief that alot of folks that write the different comments etc. are some of the very same folks we are speaking of. And it is my belief that our council city employees , school employees etc should not play games and be more transparent etc.

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    • thekytikat

      I’m Lorraine Yuriar. I have used “thekytikat” as my handle everywhere online since about 1995, so it’s a force of habit now.

      I was really hoping you’d win Ray. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to pick your brain about the experience of running for city council. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to help a few people run in 2014, and any information about what to expect would be awesome.

      Meet up with me & the rest of my crew, a bunch of like-minded people who want to see more transparency and honesty in the city govt – Suffolk Tea Party. 730p Constantia House 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month. I’d love to see you there.

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      • rbatton

        i would love to, i have another eating on april 2nd but i can attend the april 16th meeting as of now. Its on my calendar

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    • happyGoLucky

      Fair enough Ray. I Hear what you are saying but I don’t believe that the folks to who h you refer have enough imitative to post on here but who knows. I just don’t see the need to post with names. Usernames exist for a reason.

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  • Wiseoldowl

    Suffolk citizens keep your eyes open and FOLLOW THE MONEY.

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  • hambone

    From Mondays city meeting at Hilton sounds like less services for higher taxes coming. I guess security at schools is not priority for city council. Last year all hall monitors were fired. This year police officers were cut from high school. Next no security at all ?

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    • thekytikat

      City Council doesn’t have a say in that stuff Hambone — that’s the School Board.

      Did you know that the School Board has 90% of their healthcare funded out of the money the city council gives them to run the schools with? A good chunk of their retirement plans are funded also. City Council does NOT get benefits at all.

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      • happyGoLucky

        Wrongo…sorta… They have to make cuts when they are dead last in the area in terms of city funding above it’s required effort. In real terms, other cities provided up to THREE AND A HALF times the funding that our city provided… your want security, you want quality teachers, you want paper??? The cough up some dough and stop nit picking the schools budget with talk of solar panels, led lights and irrigation systems!

        “In fiscal year 2012, Suffolk gave about 75 percent above its required local effort to the schools — dead last among the 12 localities that include the seven Hampton Roads cities, York, Isle of Wight and Southampton counties and the cities of Poquoson and Franklin. The next year, that improved to ninth place among the same group, but only because other localities gave much less, not because Suffolk gave significantly more.”

        Additionally, instead of outlandish ideas of decreasing salaries 10% across the board for employees making x $$$ how about coughing up 10 – 15% of the over 60 Million in wasteful spending the city as thrown a projects with little to no return.

        I nor the hundreds of people that I know personally will ever attend a function at the cultural arts center to watch washed up acts from yesteryear nor will we ever relax in the gazebo and watch drive through customers purchase their happy meals at McDonalds!

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      • happyGoLucky

        @kitkat …Did you know that council members are paid on average 23,000 a year after voting themselves a raise?? Are you aware that school board members average 10K a year and the proposed budget includes no raise? So yeah…they make less than half the salary than Milteer gets for Sleeping (AND STILL CANT AFFORD A CELL PHONE OR COMPUTER LESSONS) and the wealthy business folks like Duman and Parr and Johnson who don’t even need the money gladly cash their checks and spend our taxes on their pet projects.

        Surely we don’t want to mislead mr. hambone..

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      • thekytikat

        HappyGoLucky — City Council members make 15,000 a year. The Mayor’s position is 18,000$. NOT 23,000. Source: hamptonroads.com/newsdata/salaries/city/suffolk/city-council

        The school board makes 10,000$ a year and has voted themselves higher benefits each year instead of a pay raise. I don’t know when the City Council last had a pay raise, but it has been a while.

        My point is, that the school budget should not be a sacred cow. The school system is top-heavy with administration. We the people deserve to see a line-item budget from the school system so we can see exactly where the money is going, since they apparently can’t afford paper for the the teachers to copy things.

        I also want to see a line-item from the city, so we the people can see where the money is going and give them the “specifics” they wanted us to give them. How can we give them specifics on where to cut spending if they won’t give us specifics on where they spend?

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      • happyGoLucky

        Ah kittykat…I’ll give you that one, I didn’t drill down into the details and just took the average which included the clerk and deputy clerk’s salaries…That being said, you are advocating that 15k is fair compensation for sleeping during council meetings, holding backdoor votes on the CM raise??? If an employee of mine slept during a meeting that person would be shown the door, not paid even the paltry 15k

        Let’s get real here 15k is a drop in the bucket to most of these clown’s personal business/real estate holdings.

        Please respond to the CM’s UNLIMITED LEAVE ACCRUAL…OHH did you know that when she leaves the money we will owe could fund health care coverage for all school board and city council members for a year or two..maybe more depending on how much leave she reports and/or accrues. Shocking…

        When milteer is eventually ousted, I can see him asking for unemployment…ugh

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      • thekytikat

        HappygoLucky – The fact that Milteer gets 15,000 to sleep through meetings is the fault of the residents in Whaleyville, those who did not run anyone against him, and those who voted his sorry rear end back in.

        Do you have proof of the Unlimited Leave Accrual? I hadn’t heard that one before. Honestly, I’m trying my best to learn all I can about this crew.

        I’d love a chance to talk to you. I’m with the Suffolk Tea Party, we meet every 1st & 3rd Tuesday at 7:30p in Constantia House behind Baker Funeral home. Next meeting is April 2. We have a few leads for people who might want to run for council the next go round, and are looking for whatever info we can get our hands on RE: the current crop & the city’s constitutional officers. Come on out and hang with us (we’re pretty laid back) – we could use your knowledge!

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      • am

        How many part time jobs get beneits?

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      • happyGoLucky

        @am.. The intent of offering some sort of benefits package is to draw higher quality candidates. Most if not all other school boards offer the same. Cars, gym memberships are among other perks I have read about in other cities. I won’t comment if the current board is comprised entirely of high quality members. However, I would say that the basic intent is to prevent a board comprised of Thelma Hinton clones. An illiterate person that interferes with police officers trying to perform their jobs when they are pursuing criminals in her hood.

        Otherwise, why not just take a van and pick SB members regardless of education at the local drive through…

        I see your point but I’m ok with it…

        The city counsel is so much easier to pick on because they have wasted so much money and have acted unscrupulously and rubbed our faces in it at the same time.

        I have pointed out over 60 million in waste here and I have just scratched the surface…not even scrutinized their budget. I’m sure if I did I would find another 30 plus million wasted. I dare say if there is waste in the schools in is no way near the magnitude of the city..Not even close, not even a cigar…

        Can we at least agree on that?

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      • happyGoLucky

        @kitkat..agree with your point regarding the lack of opposition to Sleepy. But let’s not single out Whaleyville. There are others that are as useless wide awake like Dopey, Sleazy, Chubby and the rest of the town dwarfs..

        Regarding the leave accrual…it is accurate as you can see I have mentioned it here a hundred times and yet no one including Mr. Duman will refute it. It is a hidden perk offered up to the princess when she was first hired. They included it in the package because at the time they couldn’t offer her a salary that she felt was worthy of her superior knowledge and expertise. My point is, even if I disagree with all of that and I do. She is now well paid for the position she holds yet they did not remove that benefit from her package. Most likely that is why her raise was orchestrated the way it was.

        I am not yet sold on the entire TP platform. However, I will keep it in mind. I know of a few people in Whaleyville..prior military, good education who would be viable candidates.

        If Mr. Duman was sincere in his intentions of posting on this board in “tethering” thread, he could at least address that one question if he can’t justify the 37 million dollar municipal center or the golf cart he should clearly be able to justify the unlimited leave accrual.

        But all I hear are crickets…

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      • teach

        I notice you don’t mention the benefits the city workers receive…as well as the holiday they continue to get…they get Friday off for Lee/Jackson day and then Monday for Martin Luther King day. Really? Who else gets this???

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  • happyGoLucky

    @TB_suffolklady Not that I’m giving an endorsement for the current superintendent..Once again you folks need to straighten out the city first. This list is upside down compared to the salary of local City Managers where our Princess is much further up the list regarding salary and compensation. Not listed is SouthHampton County’s Superintendent with a base salary of 131K.

    Superintendent salaries:
    1. Virginia Beach $214, 217
    2. Norfolk $200,000
    3. Newport News $186,300
    4. Hampton $184,553
    5. Portsmouth $178,471
    6. Chesapeake $170,000
    7. Suffolk $155,000
    Besides the salary, there’s also perks.
    Car Allowances:
    Norfolk $6,000
    Newport News $9,000
    Portsmouth, $8,923

    Travel:
    Virginia Beach: $9,000
    Chesapeake: $7,500
    Suffolk: $7,000

    Club Memberships:
    Norfolk: membership to Towne Point Club
    Newport News $1,600
    Hampton $8,074

    Even if you reduced the salary of the Superintendent and Asst Superintendent’s… that figure would be peso’s compared to the MILLIONS… OVER 60 MILLION PLUS spent or allocated to be spent on cultural arts center, smoking pit gazebo, tea plant, SUV’s, fancy golf carts, CM and her minions salaries, and other frivolous expenditures doled out by our CM and council. Yeah we could save a buck here and there on the Superintendents salary and LED lights and turning sports fields into green houses but those measures wouldn’t even pay one year of the CM’s salary not counting the UNLIMITED LEAVE ACCRUAL that WE will be paying for long after the Queen is gone! I say again as I have said multiple times here but no one seems to get it…
    UNLIMITED LEAVE ACCRUAL!!! No one in the city or school system other than the CM has that in their benefits package! What a sweet deal…

    Suggest Removal

  • Roger Leonard

    Mr. Parr wants us all to shoot at suggestions to change the status-quo without any of the facts available from the budget wizards in the puzzle palace on Market Street. To put forth suggestions that uninformed by council design, due to the lack of data, insures suggestions are as useless as those found in Washington…

    There is no reason that full budget proposals can’t come out from SPS and the City, 30 days prior to any called meeting for the public to comment upon. The reason they do not, is the leadership, especially the City Manager wants to keep all in the dark so they look foolish and uninformed.

    The game that we see played out every year of recent memory, to hike taxes and support higher spending is a farce. It is so, because our council and City Manager make it so and it does not serve the people of Suffolk, by their own design. If Mr. Parr and company wanted to garner realistic public comment, the proposed budgets would come out no later than mid-January and then in March people would have something to say. However, Mr. Parr and his compatriots design a process to avoid lucent comments and proposals to avoid having to consider other than wnat they intend to do. So much for transparent and good governance…

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    • happyGoLucky

      I wouldn’t use Parr to bury my goldfish. I wouldn’t buy a car from Duman. I would not use Gardy as an attorney and I would utilize The Mayor’s services. Milteer is a fossil who is as useful as typewriter in today’s world. He doesn’t have a cell phone number you can call, you call his house and his angry wife screeches he is at a meeting..most likely at a sleep study or private back door meeting to bestow the cities treasure on the the Princess herself the CM. He never answers email as I have no confidence he has the ability to use a computer. Yet…a large portion of Suffolk’s uninformed elect these clowns year after year. Wake up America!

      Somewhere in Suffolk there will arise viable candidates to bring transparency to city government and move this city in the right direction.. I hear there are are a few individuals that are prepping for the challenge as I type this. God speed! Send these losers back to mismanaging their own money!

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      • happyGoLucky

        To be very clear…a typo above…I would NOT utilize the Mayors services.

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      • 4ever cynical

        I hope you’re right about the viable candidates ready to lead to city and I hope whoever they are can break the stranglehold that the incumbents have on the majority of the casual and uninformed voters that keep electing these clowns. I think the current tenor of the citizenship is a positive step toward making some changes on Main St.

        I am losing faith that there are any honest, capable and decent citizens who are willing to go through the expense and scrutiny of an election to serve for the common good of Suffolk (or anywhere for that matter). I hope I am eventually proven wrong.

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      • TB_suffolklady

        If the school board and superintendent would be honest about their budget and what their line items are, maybe the city council would work with them.

        SAO and their leaders build in massive raises and money for themselves. NOT THE TEACHERS. Once they go downtown, they do not care anymore about what happens. Just keep THEM looking good.

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      • thekytikat

        To 4ever Cynical & everyone else,

        Suffolk Tea Party has a few leads on a few people who may be running! Come to a few meetings, get to know us, and help us help these folks run for office so we can have some viable alternatives to the current council.

        We meet on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month, 7:30pm at Constantia house behind Baker Funeral Home. Website is suffolkhrtp.wordpress.com

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    • am

      Here is the SPS budget timeline for your perusal. It is located (with the budget) on the SPS website

      http://www.spsk12.net/files/2013/02/Budget-Calendar-13-14.pdf

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  • jgurwell

    So happy to see this discussion here. I must say I would like to see this level of active discussion at the end of each and every city council meeting.
    The Suffolkians have allowed (over time) their government to become run by a group of people that truly have disdain for Suffolk’s tax payers. THe residents are seen as uneducated, and more over uninterested in the workings of city hall.
    Did anyone other than myself notice Mr. Parr mouth the words “no way” when one of the speakers ask council if they would send their children to Suffolk public schools?
    Did anyone notice the bottled water the council drank when a pitcher of ice water with cups is always available at no charge from the Hilton? Lastly did everyone notice that power point was printed in full color and handed out to at least 20 people? A 14 page document in full color will cost about $7.00 for ink & paper, multiply that by the 20 or so people you have $140.00. THis cost is not impressive when you are speaking in millions of dollars but keep in mind the if one is not willing to carefully watch the bottom line this type of extra unnecessary expense can end up wasting thousands of tax payers dollars which will add up to millions. More over it is this type of arrogant behavior the constantly points to the lack of respect that this council holds for it’s employers, the citizens.
    We will know when the citizens of Suffolk have had enough by the fact that they add council meetings as a “have to attend” on thier weekly schedule. Until then the citizens of Suffolk have exactly what they voted in. NOTHING.

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    • TB_suffolklady

      The school system is out of copies and out of paper on a regular basis. However, they send out multiple copied 40, 50, 60, + page documents that detail all the paperwork that teachers have to do to keep their jobs. SAO is always sending stuff out. SAO has exorbitant expenses as well. No one seems to get that SAO is as bad as everyone wants to make council out to be.

      Suggest Removal

    • TB_suffolklady

      As far as Parr mouthing “no way” to sending students to public schools – think about who is actually responsible for what goes on in the buildings – the SCHOOL SYSTEM ADMINISTRATION. Teachers rights are non-existent

      Suggest Removal

  • hambone

    City council has money to give big raises but cant find the funds to keep Police officers in the High Schools.On March 13 of this year the Schools admin cut one of the two officers at each high school because of lack of funds. Now there will only be 1 officer at each high school for 1500 students.Sometimes that officer has to go to court or other training. So now no one will be at the schools when that one officer cant be there. So there will be no one to help break up fights,and handled other incidents that may occur.So if council cant find the money like they say , will all police officers be taken out of the schools?

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    • happyGoLucky

      Yeah Hambone….that is a travesty. There are some very good officers patrolling our schools! One however is not enough, they need support!

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      • am

        and the officers have help – it is called the teaching staff! Try to see how many teachers have been injured breaking up both verbal and physical altercations.

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      • happyGoLucky

        @am Which is why this is a travesty…Teachers should not have to be putting themselves in harms way. But only having one officer for a huge are such as a high school is increasing the risk that the one officer, teachers and students could be put in harms way.

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  • happyGoLucky

    Wow 300 workers??? What a huge impact. How about the thousand of new residents and new home construction ??? SPS employs over 2000. We are missing out on a lot more tax revenue and keeping folks employed than the tea plant. 40 FORTY MILLION D O L L A R S spent between the tea plant and the new municipal center. Tack on the cultural arts center and the gazebo and we are up to 60 million. What have we receive in return? Yeah a few people coming to town to see Clay Aiken or John Tesh?? You want to point out waste? Those items are clearly tax dollars stolen from the. Citizenry.

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  • bo_sox

    Why is nobody commenting on the complete disrespect of Suffolk citizens during the meeting? City council members were blantantly rolling their eyes, texting, and one was even nodding off during the meeting. They did not care what the citizenry had to say. They will do what they want.

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    • thekytikat

      Watch any council meeting on the Municipal Channel 8 archives… Milteer ALWAYS falls asleep during the meetings until vote time. You’ll see the guys sitting next to him nudge him once in a while.

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  • Ritter

    As I was saying before I hit the enter button… I havent research this, nor read all the comments before mine. But where do our city leaders send their children to school?
    You would think they would want the best for our future tax paying citizens. ???

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  • Ritter

    I havent

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  • thekytikat

    The biggest problem with last night’s meeting was the absolute LACK of ANY information ahead of time. How the heck are the citizens supposed to tell Council where we want them to cut and we want them to get rid of, if they won’t tell us what they plan to spend the money on!

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    • jhuxster

      Your statement has a faulty assumption–that is that Council really cares about citizen input. Sorry to be cynical but there was only one purpose for the meeting–so they could cover themselves by saying they asked for input and citizens had nothing of value to offer in the way of cuts. Inadvertently Councilman Parr revealed the Council’s agenda–to claim they listened and then reject everything they were told because it wasn’t specific.

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      • thekytikat

        Duman said the same thing. He spoke for about 20 minutes circling around “nothing specific from the discretionary spending was mentioned.” I almost got thrown out when I hollered back that if they had released some documents ahead of time maybe we could have had specifics. LOL

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  • stown23437

    The fact that us as citizens and the teachers are not asking for the accounting of the budget and are not aware of the fleecing of money that could be re-directed in their direction that is AVAILABLE already, says to me that their government teachers need to add a chapter for the students on city government structure as well. Our future citizens need to understand how budgets are done, how taxes are paid and how tax base is generated and made.

    Suggest Removal

  • ConcernedCitizen

    I have to agree w/ stown’s comments and the TB_suffolklady. I would add as a suggestion that the school board provide a complete itemized list of their proposed expense budget to city council and city council in turn itemizes where the allocated money is to be spent. It is my understanding 2% raises were approved last year for teachers but the money was spent elsewhere with no accounting. To correct the budget deficit, I see no other alternative but to raise real estate taxes. If the assessments are going down then an increase in the real estate tax shouldn’t make much of a difference in the taxpayors pocket but it would make a huge difference in revenue for the city.

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    • am

      The 2% went to offset the VRS retirement payment that the state mandated that teachers now pay (a change in the system that dated back to the 1980s)

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    • thekytikat

      Thing is, we are barely scraping by as is. The raise in Property taxes the city wants would be MORE than any savings I would see in the small amount that my assessment is going down.

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      • jhuxster

        They have raised taxes EVERY YEAR. It’s time they cut spending. Government needs to live within its means. I can’t afford any more taxes

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  • truly

    Is it just me, or does it sound like the council wants US to come up with the solution to a problem they should be solving? It sounds just like the SPS to label a person with one position, while paying them for that label, and then tacking on thousands of other responsibilities that should be done by someone else higher up, with a higher pay.
    Not very surprising, Suffolk.

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  • TB_suffolklady

    Go to the schools budget and you will see salaries, but you don’t see the expense accounts, as they are built in.
    Superintendent: $163,641 (+car, expenses, etc)
    2 Asst. Superintents: $273,563 (this is actually more for Chavis, not Alston – Chavis gets expenses, car, etc)
    The director of this and directors of that’s salaries are not listed. So all the downtown SAO people who make $100,000+ are not listed.

    End of the day…..schools pay their fat cat MORE than the city does. DOES NO ONE SEE THIS?

    Also, the superintendent can ASK for all the money he wants from the schools, but it is NOT earmarked for raises. HE HAS ALREADY CUT MULTIPLE POSITIONS – with no uprising from the city/schools/etc. He and Chavis do not care about the work morale. They only care about building a state of the art school and not caring for their workers.

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    • am

      Director/lead teacher positions ARE listed, but they are within the area of concentration (ie, CTE, Middle School, Secondary, etc)

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  • stown23437

    I just skimmed the Suffolk Public Schools budget. Let’s get answers to these questions:

    -Why are we adding 10.75% to the High School line item? that is an increase of 1.59 Million dollars.
    -There is a shown addition of 2 “Graduation Coaches”. If not mistaken, that is a parent, teacher and guidance counselor role to “coach” a child towards graduation.
    -Why are we adding a line item in the Legal Fees category of 500,000 dollars deemed as purchased expenses. What is the received service. That is not enough detail.
    -The Non-Departmental Budget shows a spike of 100,000, but doesnt describe what that is for besides equipment.
    -Staff Development/Training jumped 33k dollars to 180k.There is another travel and training line item for 234k. Who uses this travel?
    -Textbooks are jumping from 857k to 1.2MIL. Are we spending wisely or this for replacement?
    -Telephone costs have risen 50,000 in a year. Why?
    -Eletric has risen 136,000? What are we doing to save and be energy efficent?

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    • TB_suffolklady

      This is exactly my point. There’s no explanation of these costs. There’s ridiculous cuts in special education, no money for any after school activities, yet the super has money, football has money, the school board members have money. There’s no accountability.

      Suggest Removal

    • suffolklady

      And I have no idea where the money for textbooks is going. Some disciplines have not have new textbooks in almost 10 years.

      Suggest Removal

  • jhuxster

    To those who suggest we swtich to LED lights to “save” money have you taken the time to consider the costs associated with the conversion. You would have to install new fixtures in all offices, classrooms, hallways, vestibules, etc. You would then have to purchase bulbs to go into those fixture. You also have to pay electricians to do the swap outs. I suspect once you total the costs of changing everything out it would be dozens of years before you would even break even. Here’s another question–how do you get rid of the flourscent bulbs used now? They have mercury in them and must be disposed of carefully. Unless I’ve missed something our landfill is not designed to handle mercury infused bulbs–thus creating an environmental nightmare.

    Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      There are built in staff and electricians to handle that. You turn your heat down to save on your electric bill, and you don’t see the immediate result….but it IS a step in the right direction.

      Suggest Removal

    • newsguy85

      What is there not to see? If you read my posts I am aware upgrading to cost saving materials WOULD COST MONEY! When times get tough we have to make changes in order to down the road make a buck. Use some of the money the city would give to the schools to make these changes in order to reduce money being spent that doesn’t need to be spent. Are you aware the school system has a maintenance department to do some projects in house? Rome wasn’t built in a day. You want money in this tough economy? Make it yourself! Save where needed to excel later.

      Suggest Removal

  • Roger Leonard

    Just a small idea:

    Review all City and School employees making over $80,000 a year and reduce their pay by 10%. Use these funds for classroom supplies that our teachers are paying out of pocket right now. That should be fair, and identifies where funds will come from, like so many on council demand of the citizens who audaciously demand a different path ahead…

    I really like Mr Parr’s statement: “I’ve heard, I want this, I want that, I want this, but don’t raise taxes.”

    Finally he got the ringing idea that the citizens want priorities set that matter and to fund real needs, not more pay for the City Manager and senior staff that already make more than 99% of us! It is time that council set priorities rather than bend to political demands of the well-connected and those who work to re-elect them…

    Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      Roger you have for to be kidding me with this Obama economics. So those making 80 k would have their salary lowered to below someone junior making 78k. Where do you stop???? People work hard to succeed only to cough up their pay for someone junior to them. FYI 80k is barely middle class particularly for someone that may have put hard work in to make that. Why not think of the waste that is before your eyes if you would be reasonable. We spend over 37million on a municipal center that holds 100 employees yet balk at 17million for a school that hold 6 or 7 times as many employees and students. Now back to your 80k algorithm … Do you realize that many of those folks also have not received a raise in years and when the last salary study was performed 8 years ago they were found to be 11 to 19% UNDERPAID! If you think 80k is a lot of money may I remind you that this is 2013 not 1980. Secondly, the salary range you speak of would include principals which if you make a reduction such as you infer we would lose all of the decent principals in addition to the good teachers we have already lost . In case I have not made it clear, I disagree with your suggestions.

      Suggest Removal

      • Roger Leonard

        While it is true that such antics on salary are repugnant, Mr. Parr wants us all to shoot at suggestions to change the status-quo without any of the facts available from the budget wizards in the puzzle palace on Market Street. I put this suggestion in to point out that uninformed suggestions are as useless as those found in Washington…

        There is no reason that full budget proposals can’t come out from SPS and the City, 30 days prior to any called meeting for the public to comment upon. The reason they do not, is the leadership, especially the City Manager wants to keep us all in the dark so they look as foolish as you noted the comment on salaries to be. In addition, for the job done by most in our city, we are not underpaying our city employees…

        The game that we see played out every year of recent memory, to hike taxes and support higher spending is a farce. It is so, because our council and City Manager make it so and it does not serve the people of Suffolk, by their own design. If Mr. Parr and company wanted to garner realistic public comment, the proposed budgets would come out no later than mid-January and then in March people would have something to say. However, Mr. Parr and his compatriots design a process to avoid lucent comments and proposals to avoid having to consider other than they intend to do. So much for transparent and good governance…

        Suggest Removal

  • am
  • cynical

    Councilman Parr still doesn’t get it. He says he hears the citizens saying “I want, I want”, but yet are the city’s expenditures actually in line with what the citizens want?

    Do the citizens want bloated top level city staff, high salaries, unneeded trips and perks, and building projects that aren’t needed?

    Councilman Parr, the citizens are saying we want to get rid of wasteful spending, stop wasted money on trips and conferences, stop making poor investments for the city, stop with the exhorbitant high salaries and the enormous city staff and management, and put the money to useful things, like education where it really belongs.

    Are you going to stand there and tell a child you are taking money away from his school system so that you can pay for more conferences, salaries that are way too high, too many city staffers, or a building project we don’t need? Are you going to tell us there is nowhere we can cut to get this money?

    It’s a matter of priorities, Mr. Parr, and your response tells me your priorities are not with the citizens…

    Suggest Removal

  • newsguy85

    Today’s economy is no laughing matter. We do not need these state of the art schools with fancy ceilings and TVs in lunchrooms. I attended Suffolk Public Schools and certainly didn’t have any of those accessories to my education. There are many ways to cut cost and not to have to effect teachers pay. I agree, the teachers need more money. I fully support that.

    However, based on a 35,000 sq ft building with LED lighting over an average 10 year time frame you could reduce energy costs by more than 28% or 27.8 trillion BTUs. Kings Fork High School is around 200,000 sq ft., so you can do the math on the savings that would accrue to.

    Then you could ponder the idea of low-flow and sensor-activated water fixtures in restrooms to cut water costs.

    Or a rainwater harvesting system that captures rainwater from the roof and reuses it for irrigation.

    Using a significant amount of building materials that contain a high amount of recycled product.

    Oh, what about the cost for these things? I thought you’d ask. Then purchase that significant amount of building materials made within a 500 mile radius to boost local economies and reduce energy expended on transportation.

    One hand washes the other here folks. These money savings ideas didn’t pop up overnight. Think about all the money that could have been saved by reducing costs years ago.

    Boom, there’s your teachers pay raises.

    Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      You left out one…why could they not grow their own produce, buy a few goats and cows. Instead of sports, the fields could be used as farmland… Students would learn a little about farming and agriculture and instead of providing free meals on the tax payers dime…they could eat the food produced at school under them there fancy LED lights…as long as they meet OSHA requirements that is..

      Let’s get real…they don’t have the money to pay teachers so they won’t have the $$$ to revitalize their infrastructure…..

      Suggest Removal

      • newsguy85

        Interesting.

        One would think that in a business sense of mind you would find ways to cut costs (removing those TVs in the lunchrooms) or invest money (updating to more cost effective appliances) in order to become more profitable. You still have to spend money to make money. And those “nifty” LED lights would be a huge cost cutter.

        But that’s okay. We’ve got one state of the art high school compared to two early 1990 construction models. Go ahead, keep throwing some money into the older schools for maintenance and keep not paying your teachers a raise.

        I get it now.

        Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      One would think in a business sense of mind that you don’t spend 37 million on a municipal center, you don’t give your city manager higher wages than those cities with larger population and infrastructure responsibilities. You don’t spend 3.7 million to keep a tea plant in the area, you don’t buy SUV’s for City employees, you don’t buy a 25 thousand dollar golf cart for Parks and Recreation…I could go on and on with examples of wasted tax dollars blown on the city as a whole and departments within the city. Some here have the audacity to whine about Football Money and thermostat settings???? The money saved on adjusting the thermostat or turning off parking lights pale in comparison to the TENS OF MILLIONS wasted on the city!

      Sure, if we were to build a municipal center that cost only 20 Million we could use the extra 17 Million to build a new school or install solar heating and LED lighting for all the schools and fund raises… Business acumen can be applied to the city as well……..

      Suggest Removal

  • granny

    Did anyone mention the double digit raises for city hall? Those dollars could be well spent in the school system rather than going to individuals who are already overpaid. The city manager and city council are out of touch with reality.

    Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      The school board is out of touch with being fiscally responsible if you want to address that. Ask for a line item budget as a citizen. See how they spend. Bet you won’t get it. Think what you want of our elected officials, that is not my concern. My concern is reaching dollars across the board to educate children and compensating teachers. If that is your same concern, then you need to ask why the superintendent has Ben “out of touch” with looking in his budget the last few year to find raises for his teachers. He is given his pot of dollars for education, and he decides to dole it out as he wishes, so I am at a loss of understanding as to why no one asks the right questions.

      Suggest Removal

      • 4ever cynical

        I don’t believe anyone is saying that the superintendent and school board are not also at fault. I was at a recent meeting about the bus schedules and I can tell you that the school board is run in a very similar manner to the rest of city’s leadership; they are all culpable in this mess. None of the involved entities are good stewards of the funds entrusted to them from the taxpayers. The people are fed up with government inefficiency and ineptitude.

        No one is going to be happy with the end-result of the budget (for the schools or city). EVERY service is going to see reductions without a tax increase; there is no way around it. It can be done smarter and there are citizens that are legitimately willing to help. The problem is that this request for public input is only ‘lip service’. The city knows what they want to do and they want us to shut up and let them do it. In all actuality, no citizen inputs will be taken seriously.

        ‘stown23437’, just because we have opposing views on the city government does not make me a conspiracy theorist and I am not personally attacking anyone. I am conveying displeasure with the documented and reported facts of a City Council that has blatantly gone against the wishes of its citizens on numerous occasions; to include approving lucrative raises to members of the city staff while the city faces continued financial hardships. It is not right, it does not make sense and they will not allow a dialogue on it. It is a completely fair and legitimate question and the city is obligated to not only address it, but dare I say even justify it in this current economy.

        Suggest Removal

      • stown23437

        In another topic, I firmly believe and support the salaries of economic development. Those positions work diligently on lobbying businesss to come to our city to increase our amenities, and in turn bring businesses that contribute to our tax base. Economic development is one of the primary reasons that Virginia Beach has diversified it’s business/public/private portfolio, and no one should behoove the City working on that.

        On another note, travel and expenses are part of training staff, as log as it is done judiciously. I most certainly want a well trained police officer or firefighter to help save or protect my property, not an inexperienced body. In turn, I want well versed economic development And tourism staff that continually learns how to market and advocate for the city from new marketing angles. If you don’t invest in these types of expenses, you wont see a verifiable return which would be a waste of spending. These departments pay for themselves several times over I am sure, or we wouldn’t have a new Panera Bread, a shopping district in Harboue view, Belk upgrading its store or new warehousing districts on 58 and 460. Those businesses didn’t point on a map with eyes closed and choose Suffolk as their first choice to build, rest assured.

        I may be speaking from a younger perspective, but that is the future for the direction I envision Suffolk going. I also disagree with those that said the City working with Lipton was not important. Ask a family member or employee that works there. Those homes, families and revenue loss would be a significant impact that would ripple throughout the community.

        A city is a business model and it takes money to offer the “dividends” to citizens.

        Suggest Removal

      • teach

        stown, I have read many of your comments on here and randomly picked one to comment. Your comments suggest that you believe that the city is doing right and you support the raises the manager and others in similar positions have received.
        You might want to check into the accounting and financial departments for the city. While I do have inside information that I cannot comment on publicly because I would not want to put the common worker in jeopardy, I can say that, in my opinion, there is a tremendous waste in money going on in the city, cover ups, scapegoats, etc., that most citizens would be apalled to learn.
        Of course with “blind” citizens taking up for our city leaders, our attention gets focused in the wrong places when in fact, our money is being wasted daily and swept under the rug so no one is the wiser. Workers don’t speak up about it because when they do, they are terminated. I wonder when somehow this all will come out so that we can all see what has been going on and that the responsible parties be held responsible…too much back rubbing going on there now for that to happen…maybe one day.

        Suggest Removal

  • Norseman

    Do we really need these marvels of innovation and construction expertise in our new schools? They are very nice and great looking but come on, when we are in a contracting economy who are we trying to impress? rework the schools on the drawing board to be nice looking but not works of wonder start with square boxes with windows then add some inexpensive dressing. We could save a bundle if you take the ideas out of the architects hands and get real!! the building has to be solid,functional, comfortable,and convertable to acomadate future changes. The school board has no real incentive to find ways to cut funding. All they have to do is tell us that they have to cut teachers pay increase class size etc and someone always gives in cause its for our future. If it came down to losing admin jobs for these teachers that no longer teach we could fnd the money but they always go after the kids shame on them.

    Suggest Removal

  • suffolk23

    You are blind The only other person to run against Johnson was along time friend. They knew he would take votes away from Bennet. Yes the school board is at fault also but the school board was not there last night. And if the council feels the school board is so wrong in how they are doing things then show us. Because any abuse of power in government needs to be addressed and stopped.

    Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      I am not blind. Clearly you didn’t attend nor watch the council and school Board meeting. Council asked for per building expenses and they would not/could not provide it! I am FOR teacher raises all the way, but let te citizens see the ENTIRE school budget!! Let us look at ways to find extra dollars for teachers! Kings Fork middle and high are award winning architectural buildings, but it’s not the Building that is important, it is the PEOPLE inside the building and the technology upgrades that need it, NOT over the top atriums and flat screen TVs.

      I am not out of touch, I am a realist. If the school board would build an educational institution instead of a Taj Mahal, they wouldn’t need the additional dollars, the superintendent would have extra funds to extend raises and everyone would be happy. Turn the parking lights off at night, cut the coaching stipends for all coaches. Cut out some of the QUARTER of a MILLION that football gets alone. Ask for those numbers, don’t be a sheep of the flock, be an independent thinker.

      I don’t care Who knows who, I want teachers with raises, students that have opportunities, and a school board that gets called out for not supporting teacher raises. Don’t tell me that they can’t find it, and I receive to believe it takes 23 million to build an elementary school.

      Suggest Removal

  • stown23437

    I attended the session last evening. First, personal attacks on them, whether one agrees or not, are small-minded. If you don’t like something, let your voice be heard on the issue. If you still don’t see a change then that is what your vote counts for.

    As a citizen,I saw yesterday’s input meeting as a great opportunity to allow input in to offer creative suggestions to cut spending where “we” as citizens prefer, SHOULD it come down to that. The school system needs to be held equally accountable to the budget process, and while I support a raise for teachers, the superintendent decides where to spend that money, NOT the council.

    Last night was also a missed opportunity for many who offered support for the school system receiving additional funding, but did not offer a qualified perspective on ways to cut any services or amenities.

    Each of you with your conspiracy theories should be ashamed. You are part of the problem and you offer little solution besides your vehement opposition of people, not ideas.

    Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people”. There are decisions that as a tax paying citizen I disagree with from time to time, however I look at the “body of work” and at the end of the day, we have a city with lower crime than other cities, schools that are producing great students, one of the lowest tax rates in Hampton Roads and a burgeoning group of businesses that will help support our tax base for years to come.

    If there is anything to complain about from the Budget Input Meeting is the lack of solutions offered.

    And for the record for those who like to disqualify opinions, I DO NOT work for the city, I AM a small business owner, and I AM NOT related to any member of city government, school board, city employee or council. I just have my business hat screwed on correctly.

    Complaining doesn’t produce compromise, but qualified solutions WILL yield results.

    Suggest Removal

    • jhuxster

      Some of what you say has merit, but I also think you’re overlooking some key points. In the past, when people disagree with Council decisions the Council has labeled any disagreement as “personal.” Here are some facts overlooked:

      1) Councilman Parr complained no one had specific recommendations for cuts. My comeback is simple–how can you make a recommendation for a cut when you have absolutely no clue what the proposed budget will be? This meeting was held so taht Council can cover themselves when they give us a yet another massive tax hike. Councilman Parr has made the case–we asked but you had nothing of value to offer in the form of legitimate cuts.

      2) Council demonstrates regularly its disdain for the citizens. The recent out of whack pay raise for the city manager is just one example. The glorified gazebo behind the multi-million dollar tourist center are two more examples.

      3) I wrote my councilman last week (Vice Mayor Brown) asking some very basic questions about the budget. He has not replied to me YET–even though I wanted the information for last night’s meeeing. I’m not surprised because HE NEVER answers you when you write. I’ve lived in Suffolk for more than 8 years, he’s never been in our neighborhood. Please don’t ask me to vote him out–I’ve voted against him twice but he’s in a district designed for him to constantly be re-elected (figure that one out).

      4) Council forgets the citizens are already being overtaxed and underserved. We pay the highest food tax, garbage fees, water fees, etc. Last year, they tacked on a 15% property tax increase by levying the garbage fee against my property. My mortgage company correctly reports it as property taxes. If I’m not mistaken we also pay the highest storm water fees in the area even though we’re the furtherest removed from the Bay.

      5) When I moved into Suffolk, government spending was beginning to explode by double digit tax hikes annually driven by the housing boom. I spoke at length with Mr. Brown and warned him–for every boom there is a bust and the city should be prudent in how they increase budgets. He as much as told me I was ignorant–that I didn’t know how the economy worked. Now, five years into the housing bubble, property values decline but my taxes increase because government can’t function efficiently.

      6) Because of increased taxes, families this year have already experienced a 3.6% drop in take home pay. Now, we’re asked to take home even less. What’s wrong with the city doing what we must do–spend less money. My taxes have doubled in Suffolk in 8 years, I can’t afford this government.

      7) Prior to his being on the council, I had a lengthy conversation with then candidate Parr about city government. At the time I suggesed the city form a citizen’s council to look at the budget and make recommendations for cuts. These citizens would be the “common folk” who live within their means. At the time, he seemed to think it was a good idea. Of course, it won’t happen because that means people will have access to city documents and Suffolk has a long history of being loath to release information to the citizens.

      Suggest Removal

  • suffolk23

    Parr ran for one reason. To change zoning on his properties and make money. The entire council just said it all. We heard you but were not listening. We have had three different issues hit the papers in the last three or four months ie. IT, assessments and raises. The first two were countered by City Management as lack of funds due to the economy and people being over worked. The last was countered by how the city is prospering and how much we have gained. It is obvious no matter what the citizens say or do council and the City manager will justify whatever they do in their own minds. Even if it blatantly contradicts what they said just a week ago. I look for the same outcome as the last budgets under this regime. They will propose a budget. We will protest. They will go behind closed doors and approve what they want. Then by August amazingly more money will be found. See a pattern.

    Suggest Removal

  • stunar

    Red flag when the room is packed with School system employees and they are 50% of the speakers. I agree with Parr. If you don’t come with innovative ideas for solving what is admittedly a problem, you are part of the problem not part of the solution. “fully fund” in and of itself is not a solution

    Suggest Removal

    • 4ever cynical

      The abundance of School System representation present last night is a valid point. I expect that if we had been discussing police or fire funding then the audience would have been full of cops or firefighters. But what I don’t understand (and what will not be addressed), is how it is an innovative idea is to give signifcant raises to city hall staffers behind closed doors, when revenues are down and all the while expecting the schools to roll over and do with less. How is that an acceptable answer? That clearly demonstrates that the city leadership is the biggest ‘part of the problem’.

      They don’t want solutions from us, they want silent consent to do what they want and they will use whatever excuse they can to achieve that.

      Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      I’m glad to see a red flag…since the White Flag has been displayed too many times regarding school employees and funding. School employees are probably fed up with being trounced on year after year and treat like the scum of the earth. The “Red Flag” to you or any other citizen should be closed door meetings on raises for the CM and top level City staff…3.7 million dollars in ransom money paid to keep the tea plant in Suffolk for 300 jobs.. the millions of dollars wasted on the cultural arts center, the gazebo smoking pit and the proposed millions for a new city hall.

      Tax paying citizens are drawn to a city for their schools and tax rates not a pretty city hall, tea plant or an overpaid City Manager.

      There are a few of the “regulars” that pile on about the state of SPS yet seek to chastise SPS employees for wanting to be justly compensated. You can’t expect improvement without offering a competitive salary to draw good teachers to the area. You can’t increase tax revenue without having quality teachers to draw new residents.

      Part of the problem is there a number of folks that want the good without changing the demographics of good ole Suffolk…times are a changing and we had better get on board or we will find ourselves destined to be the next “Dodge City…”

      Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      Part of the problem is that the Council & city manager did NOT release any information about the upcoming budget and the areas of discretionary spending ahead of time. If they had, maybe we could have offered them some options they would agree with. As it was, several people offered ideas for where to cut things and save money. The council just didn’t like what we said.

      Suggest Removal

  • jameshere

    You are right, Parr must go. Kerry Holmes is a good
    possibility. Let’s have a change. Others on council must go in the 2014 election.

    Suggest Removal

  • 4ever cynical

    Mr. Parr is out of touch with his constituents. He was elected to make the tough decisions in the best interest of the citizens. His statement in this article seems to suggest his belief that education should not be funded fully and that the citizens’ voice should be ignored because we don’t know what we are talking about. We all understand there is a finite revenue stream. We all understand that cuts will have to be made without a tax increase. It sounds to me like the citizens that afforded themselves the opportunity to speak last night believe that education is not the place to make cuts. Additionally, it is clear that the overwhelming majority think the limited resources we do have should not be used in underhanded ways to give significant raises to the city leadership during these uncertain economic times. Why do they not get that? Why are they surprised at our lack of confidence in their abilities? Why do they have the reputation of being closed minded and secretive?

    Mr. Parr (and the rest of the city government), hope this swell of local activism will die down so they can return to their own self-serving agendas. He’s been in office for 7 years and needs to be shown the door when his term expires next year. We do not have them on the ropes yet, but they are feeling the heat. Now is not the time to let up!

    Suggest Removal

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