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School Board approves budget

There will be no school closures, no layoffs and no significant program reductions in the Suffolk Public Schools 2010-11 budget proposal.

On Thursday evening, School Board members voted to approve a $143 million budget. It will be submitted to the City Council by April 1.

“We will have no layoffs,” said Lorraine Skeeter, chairman of the School Board. “We will have no program cuts — just some restructuring. And no schools will be closed. We can say it out loud. No schools will be closed.”

The system will see $7.2 million less this year, but the effect will be a $2 million decrease from the state because of other cost savings strategies, such as Virginia Retirement System rate reductions.

The budget does allow for the restructuring of the alternative education program by switching night classes to day classes, which will save on teachers not having to work at night after a full day of classes.

A total of seven positions from the original 2010-11 budget will be reduced, although three of those positions are new and no one was yet hired. Other cuts will include positions whose employees will be moved back into the classroom.

Operating, part-time and over-time costs were also significantly reduced.

Suffolk Public Schools superintendent Milton Liverman said the most concerning reduction in the budget is to the after-school tutoring program. If any additional savings, apart from projected estimates, from the retirement incentive program come in, Liverman said he would try to allocate them to the tutoring program.

The budget assumes the school division will receive the same amount of funds in 2010-11 as it received in 2009-10.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, however, asked all departments to prepare 5 percent and 10 percent cuts, which would amount to $2.2 million and $4.4 million for the schools.

If the city does reduce funding to the schools, Liverman said he has identified funds to make up for the losses, including reducing textbook purchases and paying for more positions with stimulus funds.

Liverman explained there were over 100 positions in the system dependent on stimulus funds, and he has been trying to get as many as he can off stimulus money before the funding stops coming. There are 49 positions relying on stimulus money in the 2009-10 budget, 20 of which were proposed to move to other funding sources for 2010-11.

If the city reduces the school budget, however, those positions would fall back on stimulus funds for the time being.