School Board approves budget

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Suffolk School Board voted unanimously in favor of Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney’s proposed 2018-2019 fiscal year budget on Tuesday evening during a special session.

The budget hinges on millions in additional funding from the city of Suffolk. The General Assembly also has yet to approve a budget, which could affect the school budget.

If the budget approved Tuesday stays intact, Suffolk’s teachers will see a raise reflected in their salary once the new school year begins. Full-time teachers will receive an additional $3,000 a year.

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Support staff, both full-time and part-time, will receive salary increases under the approved budget. Full-time support staff will receive a 2-percent cost of living adjustment, and part-time staff will receive a 1-percent adjustment.

Teachers are support staff are not the only ones getting a spike in pay. School nurses will now be paid according to a new pay scale, which results in a raise depending on years of experience. The change was made due to a comparability study with surrounding districts, according to Finance Director Wendy Forsman.

Bus drivers will also see a 31-cent increase in their starting hourly pay, totaling $12.61 per hour worked. Bus drivers work six hours a day. The starting salary has increased, and they have established a pay scale.

Altogether, the raises will cost about $4.7 million. Whitney will receive a 2-percent raise, totaling $4,000.

The $168 million budget proposal would require nearly $7 million in additional funding, of which $4 million is requested from the city.

The adopted budget is a 4.34-percent increase from the current year, but a spike was inevitable due to the addition of two new schools, Florence Bowser Elementary and Col. Fred Cherry Middle. Adding the new schools raises the budget by $2.2 million for more staff and operating costs like utilities.

Furnishing of the schools is budgeted through the Capital Improvements Plan, and currently both schools will be within budget for the furniture packages, Forsman said.

The budget was proposed with the assumption that state funding would increase by $2.9 million, and the increase would provide partial funding for the raises.

However, the General Assembly was unable to pass a budget during its 60-day session, which adjourned March 10. Gov. Ralph Northam has called a special session for April 11 to complete work on the budget.

“The Virginia General Assembly wasn’t able to come to terms on the budget,” Forsman said. “They have to call a special session, and that will happen after we have sent it to the city on April 1.”