School budget cuts 76 positions

Published 10:29 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Suffolk School Board on Thursday approved a $140.8 million budget that cuts 76 positions and requires an extra $7 million from the city.

The positions include teacher assistants, bus monitors, school receptionists, two clerical positions in the central office, two custodians and two teachers. Not all those positions will be laid off, Superintendent Deran Whitney said — some will be moved to other positions through attrition.

The spending plan is based on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget and amendments proposed in December and January. The General Assembly has not yet passed a budget, so the school division does not know exactly how much money it will get from the state.

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In a last-minute change, the School Board voted to save an elementary-level teacher position that had been proposed for elimination and cut two teacher assistant positions in its place.

The requested city appropriation of $50.6 million equals about 40.6 percent of the overall budget. State revenue accounts for 57.8 percent, and federal revenue and other funds are less than one percent each.

The requested increase from the city includes $2 million for a 2-percent raise for all employees and $1 million to cover the state-mandated Virginia Retirement System changes.

The General Assembly passed a bill that requires all local governments and school systems to give employees 5-percent raises to cover the 5-percent retirement contribution that employees now must make on their own behalf.

However, because salaries are rising, the costs of benefits are rising as well, resulting in more cost to local governments and schools.

“It’s not a wash,” Whitney said last week.

One of the biggest items of public outcry had been the proposal to reduce bookkeepers to 11-month employees. The School Board identified keeping them year-round employees as one of their biggest priorities during a budget work session last week, and they were saved in the approved budget.

The status of the Obici LPN program still is up in the air. Whitney reported that he and School Board member Lorraine Skeeter had met with potential sources of funding for the adult-education program.

Some of the meetings had been “promising” but led to no actual commitments, he said. Skeeter reported that some organizations had to meet with boards of directors to determine funding but were only willing to provide funding for the current class to finish in January, not ongoing support.

“I sense the commitment to have this class graduate,” Whitney said.

He said he would continue to investigate options to make the program self-funding, which could include raising the tuition.