School budget trimmed

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Suffolk School Board voted Thursday to trim more than $700,000 from its budget to close a funding gap. The changes will mean teachers see less money in their paychecks this year than they had hoped.

The 2-percent raise that had been proposed for teachers and other full-time employees will take effect Dec. 1 in order to save $500,000, school division Finance Director Wendy Forsman told the school board.

The bump in pay will be seen immediately, however. The delayed raise will be spread across the entire year, meaning teachers’ first checks will have a 1.4-percent raise.

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The 1-percent shift in Virginia Retirement System contributions will take effect at the beginning of the year, so there will be an effective 2.4-percent raise beginning in July.

In addition, two of three proposed graduation coaches will change from locally funded to state funded, saving $110,000. All three proposed graduation coaches still will be hired, as will 15 other new positions. Some of those are regular classroom teachers, which will be placed where they are most needed to reduce class sizes.

Also saving money will be a $128,000 reduction in school system funding of the summer school program. Forsman said the system has received foundation and business partnership commitments from the community that will make up the difference.

“It’s still going forward exactly as we proposed it,” she said.

The cuts were needed, because the city proposed only $262,000 in additional local funding, where $1 million had been requested.

Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said the changes will affect the school system, but he feels they are manageable.

“We feel comfortable with the adjustments we made,” he said.

Board Chairman Dr. Michael Debranski said an effort would be needed next year to gain additional funding.

“We will have to be on our scale next year,” he said. “We’re going to work to do better next year and get everybody on board.”

The full adopted budget is $156.8 million, with the operating fund making up $137.1 million of that. The totals represent an increase of about 3.6 percent over last year’s numbers.