Once again, budget tops School Board agenda

Published 11:10 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It should come as no surprise that the budget is once again the main topic of conversation for Suffolk Public Schools.

For the fifth consecutive month this year, the school budget will be will be the primary topic of discussion at the Suffolk Public School Board meeting.

Back in January, Superintendent Milton Liverman announced that the school system was expecting a $6 million cut in state aid in accordance with Gov. Kaine’s proposed budget, which showed a reduction in state funding of about 7 percent.

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In February, Liverman proposed cutting 105 positions and keeping school employees’ salaries static in order to deal with that loss in state aid. In March, the budget was accepted by the school board under the assumption that the system would not experience any cut in funding from the city of Suffolk.

But that is exactly what happened.

Last month, School Board members voted unanimously for Superintendent Milton Liverman to write a letter to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn asking for a justification for considering a budget that would reduce local funding to schools by $3.5 million. Then, at a special work session called for a talk on the budget the following week, the board found out that the schools’ operating budget for 2009-2010 would include millions of dollars less federal money than once thought.

At that meeting, Liverman said his hands were still tied on making any definitive decisions because up to $5.5 million could change, based on changes from the state level.

This Thursday, though, Liverman will have all the information necessary to make more concrete recommendations.

“The superintendent does now have enough state and federal information in order to move forward with budget adoption this Thursday,” Michael Brinkley, executive director of finance for Suffolk Public Schools, wrote in an e-mail to the News-Herald. “All details have not been completed, but basically, the budget will be balanced using federal stimulus/stabilization funds to replace the local decrease in funding of $3.5 million that has now been adopted by the City Council.”

For right now, the school division expects to receive about $10.4 million in stimulus money for the next two years. About $4.9 million of that amount is for the first year only, does not have to be spent in specific categories and can go directly to the budget. The remaining $5.5 million is subject to specific prerequisites before it can be used, and, Liverman, again, was waiting on more direction from the state level.

Thursday, the board will again hear from Liverman and Brinkley before voting to adopt previously approved and revised operating budget.

The meeting will take place Thursday night at 7 p.m. at City Council Chambers.