Board adopts reduced budget

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Despite frustration over losing local funding next year, the School Board on Friday unanimously adopted a $112.9 million budget.

After the General Assembly’s action on May 13 gave the school system an unexpected $4.3 million windfall, City Manager R. Steve Herbert cut $1.9 million from the city’s original $36 million contribution to the division next year.

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Reducing the city’s investment will be felt in the classroom, said School Superintendent Dr. Milton Liverman.

&uot;The bottom line is that out of the $4.3 million we received from the state that you did not anticipate, you realized $2.4 million of that money enabling you to meet the state requirements,&uot; said Liverman. &uot;This new money did come with some state requirements.

&uot;For example, we have to increase the number of technology support people we have. It requires that we have one technology support person for every 1,000 students.&uot;

Those new state dollars also require Suffolk Public Schools to reduce class sizes, a priority at both the middle and high school levels, he said. A state mandate to reduce some classes down to a 24:1 student/teacher ratio does not have to be in place until July 2005.

The additional money from the state will also allow the School Board to give employees the pay raises proposed in its original budget: an average 6 percent for teachers and an average 4 percent for all other employees.

The state also requires five additional resource people, in art, music and physical education, for every 1,000 students, Liverman said.

One loss, an apparent disappointment to board members, came through the loss of 13 Standards of Learning resource teachers the schools anticipated having next year.

Board member James E. Perkinson asked the superintendent to look at the budget again and reiterate to city lawmakers the vital roles these teachers play.

&uot;We realize that we may not be able to fund them all, but if we could put six more teachers in…&uot; said Perkinson.

Liverman was not optimistic.

&uot;I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope for that,&uot; he said. &uot;I will look for other things in the budget so that we can get some of the teachers in place. I will work something out for you.&uot;

As Liverman told the board that he had received calls from council members who told him they are willing to work with him, smiles went around the table.

&uot;Well, I’m serious,&uot; he added.

He also pointed out that the school budget is in better shape now than it was two weeks ago.

&uot;This is a good budget and by the time we meet in June, I’ll have some recommendations for you.&uot;