Schools to experience ‘drastic’ cuts

Published 11:17 pm Thursday, January 8, 2009

Superintendent Milton Liverman announced Wednesday night that Suffolk Public Schools is expecting a $6 million cut in state aid in accordance with Gov. Tim Kaine’s proposed budget. The expected cut equates to an estimated 7 percent reduction in funding.

While Liverman did not have specific numbers available Wednesday, he did say that the school board should expect “severe and drastic cuts” in his budget proposal to the board next month.

Liverman attacked the notion that these budget cuts will be limited to administrative and support costs and would not affect classroom operations.

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“Every cut that we make will have some impact on the classroom,” he said, adding that even though the state is making cuts to the budget, it has not reduced the paperwork or protocol requirements for operating programs in the schools. By eliminating the administrative staff that takes care of these tasks, the burden of the work would then fall on teachers, he explained.

“There’s no way classroom instruction will not be affected,” Liverman said. He said his goal will be to retain all of the school system’s employees, but the cuts will be significant.

But Liverman warned there is a far “graver concern” looming in Richmond than this year’s budget cuts. He said there is talk of making these budget cuts permanent, which would put a “dead stop in the significant progress” made by Suffolk Public Schools and other divisions like it across the commonwealth.

“We should not resist the necessary cuts, but resist these cuts to be permanent,” he said.

Board member Michael Debranski said the school system needs to plan for the worst-case scenario, both because of the looming economic problems and because of Virginia’s history of public-school funding.

“I think we haven’t seen the bottom of this economy,” he said. “We’re not going to get much help from the state. Not with the background and history we’ve had here for the past 50 to 60 years.”

Liverman also said it was important to note that the General Assembly still has to approve the governor’s budget proposal, and it could choose to raise revenues to fund the schools more.

He also said he will assume that the amount of funding from the city will remain the same.