Schools face possible $616K gap

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Suffolk school division could wind up having to cover a shortfall in state funding during the current fiscal year.

Exactly how much of a shortfall remains to be seen, Finance Director Wendy Forsman reported during the board’s regular meeting Thursday morning, which was moved from last week to coincide with the annual planning session.

“We won’t know until late February,” Forsman said of how much the shortfall will be or whether it will even exist.

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A portion of state funding for public schools this year was tied to the state meeting revenue goals. But it fell $266 million short.

“They’ve done this in the past for state agencies and then missed the mark,” Forsman said. This was the first time school money had been tied to state revenue performance, she said.

That leaves Suffolk Public Schools with a potential $616,665 hole to fill, Forsman told the School Board on Thursday.

“We talked about how this causes concern when it’s not guaranteed,” Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said.

However, the school division still is in the process of calculating where its finances stood at the end of the fiscal year. Any money remaining could carry over.

Next week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe will report the revenue reforecast to legislative money committees. In December, the governor will unveil a “caboose bill,” which would make adjustments to the previously approved budget. The caboose bill will address the shortfall, but it will not be approved until late February.

Forsman stressed there is no guarantee the school division will get the money, and it cannot afford to wait until February to find out.

School Board members said they will not touch the 2-percent raise teachers and other full-time staff received this year, which takes effect Dec. 1 but is spread across the entire year.

Forsman said the school division still is in the process of planning how to address the situation.