School budget revealed

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

Suffolk Public Schools’ superintendent has proposed asking the city to pay for teacher raises, as part of his plan to phase in the results of a compensation study the city partially funded.

The 2015-2016 budget recommendations Deran Whitney presented to the School Board on Thursday ask the City Council to appropriate $53.57 million for public schools.

Last year, council members approved $49.68 million after the School Board requested $52.68 million.

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The extra money would be used to boost teacher pay throughout the scale, at almost $3.89 million the costliest of nine recommendations — not all requiring extra spending — from consultant Evergreen Solutions.

A teacher with 10 years’ experience would have her pay boosted from $41,810 now to $46,725, and one with 15 years’ experience would see his increase from a current $46,525 to $51,587, for instance.

Next school year, Whitney would also re-grade 10 support classifications that were found to be at least 20 percent below the market — another compensation study recommendation that will cost about $59,430. And all full-time support employees would get a step raise.

Decreases in the state retirement plan rate as well as health insurance and workers’ compensation costs and other benefits would fund these increases as well as increases in other operating costs totaling $485,514.

One more cost-attached recommendation would be implemented in 2015-2016: reclassifying 10 support positions to “better reflect roles and responsibilities, and align with best practice,” according to the study. The $18,553 cost would be absorbed by existing funds in the information technology department, district Finance Director Wendy Forsman said.

Under his plan to phase in the other recommendations, Whitney would spend $680,455 in 2016-2017 to re-grade 31 support classifications, and $64,211 in 2017-2018 to re-grade six coordinator and director classifications. The study found all those classifications are 10 to 20 percent, or moderately, below market.

He has also proposed forming two new committees to pursue other study recommendations. One would review support and teacher pay scales; the other would analyze the correlation between years of experience and salary. Both committees would report annually.

Though study Project Manager Tom Masters said a peer review found Whitney is paid 20 percent below the market average, the study recommended an in-depth review of school superintendents’ contracts for a more precise picture. Whitney indicated he would ask the School Board for direction on this one.

In reaching its findings, the study looked at various Tidewater school district and cities and those in Richmond, plus the Virginia Department of Education. In the private sector, it looked at The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and Sentara Obici Hospital.

Masters recommended implementing all nine recommendations at once, at a total cost of almost $4.71 million. The data used in the study expires quickly, he argued.

Judith Brooks-Buck seemed to agree, wondering aloud how much extra it would cost to implement the study for each year of delay.

At $76.43 million, the state’s share of funding would essentially be flat, Forsman said.