No raises for school employees under proposed budget

Published 8:54 pm Monday, February 6, 2012

For the fifth year in a row, school division employees would be earning the same annual salary under a budget proposal issued Monday by Superintendent Deran Whitney.

The budget proposes no step increases or changes to the salary scale. It also eliminates more than 70 positions and depends on increased local funding of $3.5 million.

“There is no question or debate that this is another difficult budget year,” Whitney wrote in a letter to School Board members. “I am proud of our strong committed staff that will continue to provide the best for the children of Suffolk in spite of the difficult conditions.”

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The $137.4 million spending plan is down about 2.7 percent from last year. The school system had to close a $6 million funding gap, Whitney added.

He said the school division is being hit with a number of increased costs, including $2.1 million in additional local funding for the Virginia Retirement System and a $1.5-million increase in health care expenses.

At the same time, funding has been reduced, including the end of federal grants like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Education Jobs Funds and an increase in the Composite Index, a state formula that predicts each locality’s ability to pay for its own education system.

“Suffolk’s increased composite index suggests that the locality’s improved ‘ability-to-pay’ should allow it to increase its support of the education budget,” Whitney wrote in his letter to School Board members. He stressed that the proposal depends on an additional $3.5 million from the city.

The positions proposed for elimination include 39 teacher assistants and 32 bus monitors, all of which are currently filled.

One vacant assistant principal position is being moved to a gifted teacher position that had formerly been funded by a federal stimulus grant. Whitney said he hoped to be able to provide jobs through attrition to anyone displaced as a result of the eliminated positions.

In additional measures to save costs, there will be no equipment replacement or additional equipment purchases for the fourth year in a row and the Obici LPN program will be eliminated, Whitney said.

Though teachers are likely to be upset about again not receiving a raise, Whitney pointed out that the division will be paying for additional benefit costs this year.

“Teacher salaries remain an important priority in order to continue to improve our ability to attract and retain the best teachers in the market,” Whitney said. “Although it is our desire to provide our deserving staff with additional compensation, given the current budget deficit, the additional $5 million in employee benefits expense that will not be passed to the employees and to prevent further reductions in positions, it could not be part of this proposal.”

To download a PDF document containing the full budget proposal, click here.