Residents weigh in on budget

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, January 22, 2009

About a dozen Suffolk residents came out to a public input meeting with city officials on Thursday night. Most had concerns about education funding and how the state government’s budget deficit will affect Suffolk.

The intimate meeting was the second of two that city leaders held to receive public comment on the budget process. Other opportunities will come later in the budget process, during a series of public hearings.

Seven of the residents who spoke had concerns about education money. Some have children in the school system, and others are employees. Still others were just concerned about what could happen if the city skimps on education.

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“When you cut in schools, you’re cutting futures,” said Gerri Norman, who has two children in Suffolk public schools.

Phillip Staten, director of the Riddick’s Folly House Museum, said he is concerned about funding for the education and the arts.

“I’m concerned about the education funding,” he said. “I’m also concerned for the arts and the services we can offer to the community.”

Riddick’s Folly is owned by the city, and currently is undergoing five repair and restoration tasks worth almost $180,000.

Marcus Pollard, a board member at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, asked for continued support for the center, noting that ticket sales had been decreasing because of the economy. However, some things at the center are looking up.

“We have more people signed up for classes than ever before,” he said.

Carolyn Bushey and Annie Patterson came to the meeting to support school libraries. Patterson mentioned the $6 million shortfall that local public schools are facing.

“I’m scared it might be more,” she said, adding that keeping schools strong benefits the entire community in the long run.

Dennis Pike had concerns about the statewide budget shortfall.

“The one thing I would hate to see during these times is that the local taxpayer is asked to pick up (the difference),” he said.

City staff members, including City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts, and Budget Officer Anne Seward came to the meeting to hear residents’ concerns. Councilmen Charles Parr and Leroy Bennett also were there.