School Board slashes funds to balance budget

Published 11:38 pm Thursday, May 9, 2013

Backed into a corner, Suffolk School Board members approved a series of cuts that avoided the superintendent’s recommendation of cutting 20 assistant teachers.

Teachers will not receive a 2-percent raise that had been proposed, saving $1.2 million, and 17 teacher positions will be cut, eliminating $835,000 from the budget.

In addition, employment contracts will be shortened to 11 months from a full year for all elementary school and some secondary school assistant principals, saving $77,326, district Finance Director Wendy Forsman said.


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The move will only affect one assistant principal at middle and high schools that have more than one, she explained.

Also, next year’s legal fund, which Forsman said was expected to run to $250,000, will be slashed by $150,000, and the $1.2 million alternative education program by $200,000.

The cuts, together with several others proposed by Superintendent Deran Whitney that the School Board did agree to, come after the city passed a budget funding only a third of an extra $9 million the school district requested for 2013-2014.

Other cuts to the board’s original proposed budget include heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacement ($1 million), restorations to school allocations for supplies and other costs ($180,000), equipment replacement ($50,000), fewer textbooks ($190,500), reducing property insurance ($35,105), changing retirement benefit requirements ($600,000), a pay scale adjustment ($930,478), three non-instructional positions ($150,000) and priority staffing ($406,409).

“It’s not something we are proud of, but it’s a matter of trying to balance the budget,” Whitney told Thursday’s School Board meeting, where the revised budget was approved unanimously.

“In the seven years I’ve been on the School Board, this is the most brutal budget ever faced,” board Chairman Michael Debranski said.

Enoch Copeland echoed the sentiment: “In my time on this board — seven years — this appears to be one of the most gloomy times we have had.”

Then came Lorraine Skeeter, who has served the longest. There has “not (been) one like this one” in her 20 years, she said.

Easing the pain a little, Whitney noted that two of the three non-instructional positions and 15 or 16 of the 17 teacher positions are already vacant. “Fortunately, we will not have to lay teachers off at this point,” he said.

The school district needs to find an answer to future budget issues, the meeting heard, after about 300 positions have been cut in recent years.

Judith Brooks Buck urged those who appealed to the city for more money for schools to maintain the pressure.

“I don’t want you to stop speaking … because somewhere, at some point in time, this has to stop,” she said.