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General Assembly passes budget

While many have wondered how long it would take Suffolk Public Schools to set their 2010-11 budget, the numbers are almost set in stone.

On Sunday, the General Assembly passed a budget that includes a decrease of $253 million from Virginia’s public schools. As of Monday afternoon, exact numbers for Suffolk’s schools were still being calculated.

“They are significantly better than we had projected just two weeks ago,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools. “The Superintendent and staff are updating the budget numbers and plan to brief the Board in more detail at the beginning of (Tuesday’s) 7 p.m. public input session.”

Also included in the state budget are a $360 million decrease in health funding, $47 million restored to public safety to bring 15 percent cuts down to 2.6 percent, $43 million to attract commerce and a retention of funds for state parks.

While the budget includes no new taxes or increases, there will be additional revenue of $95.4 million from an increase in fees for state services and document filing.

In respect to earlier proposed budgets, while the school system will take a hit, administrators are excited at their prospects.

“With the composite index delay and some other shifts, Suffolk Public Schools is very excited about the outlook for 2010-11,” Bradshaw said.

Originally, Gov. Robert McDonnell’s proposal included a $9 million decrease for Suffolk schools.

The situation was later improved by the House’s proposal, which included a decrease for public schools of $700 million — of which Suffolk’s schools would be responsible for $4 million. Considered even better was the Senate’s proposal, which included a $143 million decrease, but Suffolk’s schools would have seen an additional $165,000.

The two met midway at $253 million decrease for schools, which could mean a budget decrease of less than $4 million for Suffolk.

It was in light of the Governor’s proposal that cuts, such as eliminating Early Start education and closing three Suffolk schools, were proposed.

But because the situation has seemingly improved, cutting “those two items (is) less likely to be necessary this year,” Bradshaw said.

But an optimistic outlook on the budget “is only good for this year,” Bradshaw said. “The economy might not improve and stabilization dollars end in 2011. So many of the cuts considered for 2010-11 might well be necessary in 2011-12.”