School board seeking public input

Published 10:40 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Suffolk Public Schools School Board has appealed to the public for recommendations and input on potential savings in the school budget.

The school board will meet for an extensive work session Thursday beginning at 1 p.m., while the public input session will begin at 7 p.m. Both sessions will be held at the King’s Fork High School auditorium.

“We are aware of the quality of our programs,” stated Dr. Liverman in a letter to school employees. “However, the reality is that a minimum of at least $9.4 million must be cut from the current proposed budget. The Board is seeking comments and suggestions on how to re-structure our programs to save money.”

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Suffolk Public Schools is facing a total reduction of at least $9.4 million for the 2010-2011 budget years.

When school administrators drafted their 2010 budget proposal earlier this month, it only allowed for a drop in state funds of $1.85 million. Since then, administrators have learned the cuts will be much deeper, including a $5 million reduction in state funding and an additional $4 million reduction from a change in the state funding formula.

“These reductions can now only be accomplished by a significant number of staffing reductions, program eliminations or reductions, school closures and other drastic measures from which it will take many years for our school system to recover,” Liverman’s letter said.

At the meeting, board members will review the 2010-2011 budget proposal in its entirety and discuss options to trim the budget.

At their last meeting, school board members inquired how much money could be saved by closing three elementary schools and instituting a retirement incentive.

At a town hall meeting led by School Board member Enoch Copeland Monday in Holland, Liverman announced closing all three schools could save $1.7 million and offering a one-time incentive to employees already eligible for retirement could save $2.4 million.

Other budget-cutting options on the table include programs and positions not mandated by the state.

It is not necessary for speakers to sign up prior to the public input session, but all comments are limited to five minutes. For employee groups, Liverman has recommended one spokesperson be selected to share comments, and the group may provide written statements to the Board with more detailed information.