Good, but not good enough

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, April 19, 2012

By Linda W. Bouchard
Guest columnist

At last night’s City Council meeting, Suffolk citizens voiced their concerns regarding the operating budget proposal submitted by City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn for fiscal year 2012-2013. A great majority of those who spoke during the public hearing expressed their concern and frustration with City Council’s continuing refusal to fully fund the School Board’s budget proposal.

After the public outcry and in an effort to calm the turbulent seas of political discourse, City Council directed the city manager to include an additional $2 million in local funding for schools in the proposed budget.

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Although this is a step in the right direction, it is not good enough. From 2008 through 2012 Suffolk Public Schools had to cut its operating budget by $14.5 million because of City Council’s repeated failure to fully fund the School Board’s operating budget. Now once again, it looks as though City Council will not fully fund the School Board’s proposed budget by approximately $1.3 million.

The School Board cannot make any further cuts in its educational program and provide the level of educational services the citizens of Suffolk deserve and expect. Suffolk City Council has a responsibility to serve all of its citizens, including the most vulnerable — which include the school-aged children of our city, who are not voters but are directly impacted by actions taken by elected officials. Children are the only future we have, and we must teach and lead them well.

We are not only talking about dollars and cents, but about the future direction of our city. Should City Council vote May 2 not to fully fund the modest budget proposal presented by the School Board, layoffs are sure to occur, class sizes will continue to increase and certain programs will more than likely be affected. In general, the overall quality of life for Suffolk citizens will be adversely affected.

The time has come for Suffolk City Council to demonstrate a real willingness to support public education in the city, and it can do so by fully funding the School Board’s operating budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. With a proposed city budget in excess of $507 million, City Council can find an additional $1.3 million to fully fund the School Board’s modest operating budget for fiscal year 2012-2013, if it has the political will to do so.

Directing the City Manager to include an additional $2 million is good for public education in the city of Suffolk, but not quite good enough. Suffolk City Council should fully fund the School Board’s operating budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.

 

Linda W. Bouchard is a Suffolk School Board member representing the Chuckatuck Borough.