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State to cut $1M from schools

It seems as though Suffolk Public Schools may be in the clear.

Superintendent Milton Liverman informed the School Board during a public hearing on Tuesday that the school system would lose just $1 million in state funding this year, despite initial projections that painted a far worse picture.

“I could never have predicted things would go this well,” Liverman said.

“This is exciting, exciting news,” said School Board Chairman, Lorraine Skeeter.

Liverman had originally anticipated up to a $10 million decrease in funding from the state and had administrators crunching all possible options to cut the budget.

But since the state budget agreed to by the General Assembly on Sunday resulted in a decrease in local educational funding of just $1 million, Liverman said he does not expect to cut schools, jobs or programs.

“Arts programs are not in danger,” Liverman said. “The 4-year-old program is not in danger.”

Derived from public input and the School Board’s own sessions, administrators have already found $2 million worth of budget cuts from non-personnel areas of the budget.

“And I expect that number to grow,” Liverman said.

He did warn, however, that the system’s current position and ability to tentatively take the schools, positions and programs off the chopping block are dependent on how much the City Council decides to give the schools.

The city manager has asked the schools to submit budget requests reflecting 5-percent and 10-percent cuts from the City. Those decreases would amount to $2.2 million and $4.4 million, respectively.

“I don’t know if when we finish this discussion, we will actually have enough in savings,” Liverman said. “If we (have to cut) beyond that $2 million, some of those options must come back on the table.”

To help prepare for the unknown, the board instructed Liverman to prepare two budget proposals — one dependent on full funding from City Council and another anticipating more cuts.

The board will decide which to submit to City Council at its March 25 meeting.

“I think we have certainly relieved some stress on employees,” Skeeter said.

A handful of parents expressed their concerns about the school budget during Tuesday’s meeting.

The parents expressed continuing concerns over programs, positions and schools in the event they are back on the table and offered budget-cutting suggestions pertaining to transportation and workbooks.

School Board members thanked them for their time and said it was not wasted.

“I’m rather disappointed that not more parents were here,” Richard Schmack, a father, said in an interview after the meeting. “As soon as we think things have leveled off we relax. It’s a false sense of security. This isn’t over yet. We still need to come out in strong force at City Council tomorrow night.”