Board questions budget cuts

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Suffolk City Council is considering a budget that would reduce local funding to schools by $3.5 million, and the School Board wants to know why.

School Board members voted unanimously last night for Superintendent Milton Liverman to write a letter to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn asking for a justification for her recent budget recommendation that cut $3.5 million from the school’s budget.

Throughout the budget process, Liverman reminded his board that the budget recommendations for the schools were expressly dependent upon getting level funding from the city.

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On Wednesday, Cuffee-Glenn presented her budget to the City Council, showing a $3.5 million cut from the school’s budget, which is about a 7 percent decrease.

At Thursday night’s school board meeting, board member Michael Debranski said he wants to know what led the city manager to make that decision.

“I wonder why our budget was cut (7 percent) and the revenues of the other city departments were 3 percent,” he said. “I’d like to know the justification.”

Debranksi added that whenever schools make budget cuts, they are made based on information the school system can back up. He would like to hear what the city manager has to say about her recommendation.

“It may be a godsend to us that it’s only 7 percent,” he said. “I’d just like to know why.”

In fact, budget changes in various city departments ranged from a decrease of 18 percent in the community development category to an increase of 21 percent in the “other public services” category.

Several School Board members said it would make sense that the schools received a bigger cut because they are getting more stimulus funds from the federal government. However, much of that money can be used only in specific ways, limiting the School Board’s ability to use the funds.

Debranski also suggested that in the same letter Liverman writes to the city manager, he explain the restrictions on the federal dollars.

The motion passed with a vote of 7-0.

Earlier in the meeting, Liverman suggested to the board that it set up a work session specifically aimed at handling the new budget cuts.

While there was more direction about how the federal money could be used, Liverman still has not heard from the state superintendent for more specific instructions.

“We do not have all the guidelines yet,” he said, adding that he was expecting to get more information on Friday. “Hopefully by next week, we’ll have some more information to share with you.”

The board voted unanimously to have a work session meeting on Thursday.

“We’re going to have to talk about a lot of different things,” Liverman said.