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Budget slashed

Suffolk school administrators knew their 2010 budget would be tight, but it seems their worst fears just might become reality.

Announced on Wednesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s budget proposal revealed a $730-million reduction in the public school budget, which Suffolk Public Schools administrators said could mean an additional $5-million reduction for Suffolk schools in 2010.

“While disappointed, I am not surprised,” Superintendent of Education Dr. Milton Liverman said in a message emailed to the Suffolk News-Herald. “This number is close to what we have been using for the past week or so. It firms our expectation of at least a $9-million reduction in state funding for the next school year.”

When school administrators drafted their 2010 budget proposal earlier this month, it only allowed for a drop in state funds of only $1.85 million. During the last week, they found out McDonnell would allow a change to a state funding formula that is expected to cost Suffolk schools an additional $4 million.

While the governor’s proposal had not been released at the time of last week’s Suffolk School Board meeting, Liverman warned of an impending $5 million reduction, which would be the result of McDonnell’s budget proposal to close the Commonwealth’s deficit.

School administrators said the $5.1-million estimate, which came from the Virginia Education Administration early last week, was not far from “the Governor’s $5.2-million cut for SPS.”

To better plan for the expected cuts, the School Board will have a March 4 meeting dedicated to analyzing the budget in its entirety and evaluating where it can save money.

Board members have asked Liverman to examine how much would be saved by closing Mount Zion, Robertson and Florence Bowser Elementary schools. Positions and programs also will be under consideration.