Archived Story

Public: Fully fund schools

Published 11:17pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013

City Council members showed no signs of yielding to the majority of the 36 speakers during a public hearing on the budget Wednesday evening.

Most of the speakers pleaded for full funding of the Suffolk Public School system’s request for a $9-million increase from last year’s allocation.

“Please don’t tell me anymore that education is a priority,” said Melissa Stoker. “I’m disheartened by that statement and I don’t believe it. Prove it.”

Many educators and parents who spoke during the meeting characterized the school system’s budget as the least possible amount that would allow the system to educate its more than 14,000 students.

Teachers told of having to buy supplies themselves or beg parents to purchase them. Several said they don’t care about getting a raise as long as layoffs can be avoided.

Several students also spoke, including King’s Fork High School senior Fletcher Stephens.

“I’ve seen fellow classmates struggle because they can’t get help,” he said. “That’s when you get your dropouts and that’s when you get another inmate.”

But after the public hearing was over, council members gave no indication they plan to give the school system more than already offered.

“Nine million is a lot of money,” Councilman Curtis Milteer said. “It’s almost impossible to do it. Nobody will leave here with everything they want.”

Councilman Mike Duman dove into the school system’s budget, criticizing expenses like fringe benefits and suggesting the school system had intentionally hiked the amount of its original proposal so it could meet in the middle, like selling a car.

“We need to sit down somewhere and work together and come up with a serious solution,” he said.

City financial adviser David Rose of Davenport and Company said in an earlier work session that he believes the proposed school allocation is adequate.

“The schools may not feel like big winners, but they are getting their fair share,” he said, adding that the city’s budget is “bare-bones.”

Some speakers suggested putting an end to the annual push-and-pull by developing a funding formula that would automatically give the school system a certain percentage of the city’s revenues.

School funding wasn’t the only concern. Many spoke out against a proposed 6-cent real estate tax increase and a hike in the water and sewer rates.

When a government raises taxes, “they’re telling me they know better how to spend my money,” Keith Shoemaker said. “I don’t appreciate that. I think it’s an insult.”

Representatives from several nonprofit organizations also asked for funding of their organizations, including the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, the Endependence Center, Suffolk Festivals Inc., the Suffolk Fine Arts Commission, the Virginia Legal Aid Society and Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.

The budget document is available at The City Council could adopt it as early as May 1.

  • hambone

    Portsmouth had recall for its mayor anyone know process to have recall elections for mayor and city council?

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  • hambone

    Anyone know what process is to have recall elections for city officials who make decisions that will hurt the school kids .

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  • teach

    the city claims the schools use money wrong with “fringe” benefits. I wish someone would audit our city accounting dept so they can see what is going on down there with “fringe” benefits. Shame that the bottom workers in accounting have to “push” through items they know are wrong just to keep the their job. We seem to allow them to keep getting away with this. And if I hear one more time how lucky I am to have a job while city officials and workers continue to get a raise, I am going to scream. We have plenty of money for that but not to help our schools? With insurance premiums and copays rising for school workers this September, I am taking a pay cut yet again. I hate to say that Suffolk doesn’t support their schools like they should. It is a shame. Those officials need to realize that without us teachers they would not be in the jobs they have because there would have been no one to “teach” them the necessary skills to do their jobs. I guess they thank us by taking raises and continuing to give us the same wage with less take home pay that we have been receiving for at least 5 years. Oh well, when voting time comes, I am sure our citizens will once again be brain washed by the lies and keep the people in their position. Great job Suffolk. I have lived here all my life and now I am not so sure I want anyone to know that.

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  • suffolklady

    As had been said many times before on these forums:
    It does no good to continually go before city council, begging and pleading for the same things. The same thing occurs year after year. WE must be proactive in electing individuals to the council AND to the school board who will do what they are hired to do, which is SERVE the citizens!

    Suggest Removal

  • sillysal

    Of course they showed no signs of yielding. That is because they don’t intend to. HAVE THEY EVER?

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  • ladybug9327

    I took offense when council members were inattentive to speakers and Cuffee was on her cell phone – much as she was last year during the demonstration regarding her raise. If the council would behave in an above-board fashion and not make motions for raises in closed sessions, then maybe some trust could be restored. Sitting, telling people they are not worth the investment, not worth the time and using school employees and students as bargaining chips is disgraceful. Shame on you.

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    • mab1960

      As a citizen and a taxpayer I tried to engage in an informal and friendly conversation with our City Manager, my efforts were brushed off because she did not have time to deal with the “little people”. It is disheartening to say the least…regardless of how well or poorly she executes her duties, she is a permanent fixture until she retires.

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    • Lovebug

      Nothing new. She’s ALWAYS on her cell texting during the meetings. They don’t care people they have a plan in place so why even bother? It does no good!

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  • citizen123

    No child left behind? Suffolk’s children are being left lagging in the dust of the City Council’s apathy.

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  • hambone

    Wow the council proved they don’t care about the school kids,teachers or safety of the schools. When council Parr said its not our fault resource officers were cut its schools fault, then said why we need them. I ask him to go to a high school for month and see why we need police in schools. I am ashame of our city after seeing the council and mayor act poorly at the city council meeting. It’s obvious we need new elections and need vote all council members and mayor out. If not our city will become a laughing stock and our kids future will be destroyed by horrible leaders.

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