Budget input meeting tonight

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This year’s budget process is going to be a tough one, and school administrators are looking to get input from community members on their school budget priorities.

“We don’t know how the community feels or what they would support or what they have questions about until we hear from them,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools. “Of course, we’re keeping an eye on comments at the local, state and federal levels.”

The public comment session will begin at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. It will be preceded by a separate public comment session at 4 p.m. on the site selection for a new elementary school to replace Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools.

School Board members learned at their November meeting that the division will lose more than $4 million in state aid next year. Virginia’s educational funding formula takes into account a municipality’s adjusted gross income, taxable retail sales and property values. The formula helps the state determine a locality’s ability to pay for educational services in comparison to other localities in the state.

Since 2007, however, the value of property in Suffolk went up 43 percent, and the adjusted gross income rose 20 percent. The numbers mean that while the school system previously received about 70 cents for every dollar it needed, it now will receive only 66 cents.

Superintendent Milton Liverman worries that things could get worse for the school system.

“The four million is just the beginning,” Liverman said. “That does not take into consideration the governor’s proposed budget.”

Members expressed concern about the upcoming budget at their last meeting.

“This budget business is almost at a crisis level,” William Whitley said. “Next year’s budget is really going to be tough.”

In addition, stimulus dollars promised for next year will likely not be coming, Liverman said. The governor already has used part of the money to close a hole in the state budget, though Liverman doesn’t know how much.

Potential speakers at the meeting do not need to register, but should be present promptly at 5 p.m.