School budget priorities include raises

Published 10:18 pm Friday, December 13, 2019

More money for teachers and support staff, as well as increased stipends for coaches and some club sponsors, have been identified as priorities in preliminary budget discussions during Thursday’s meeting of the Suffolk School Board.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III has said he plans to increase the 2020-2021 budget over the current year’s budget of $173.3 million. That budget included a 2.25-percent raise for teachers, as well as a half-percent raise and a step increase on the pay scale for support staff, and a 1.5-percent increase for permanent part-time staff.

“We are still in the early phases of this process,” Gordon said.


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Wendy Forsman, Suffolk Public Schools’ executive director of finance, said according to the composite index, which the state uses to determine a school division’s ability to pay for its own needs, the city will have to pay slightly more in the 2020-2021 fiscal year because “the state has determined we can cover more of the costs for education.”

Forsman said meetings have been held with a group of six teachers — two each from the city’s elementary, middle and high school levels — on three different pay scales, with teachers choosing a percentage increase between steps on the salary scale. The other options they considered included an increase based on a flat dollar amount per step and one that took into account how Suffolk Public Schools compared in salary to the rest of the region.

“The teachers chose a scale-style that was a percentage between steps,” Forsman said. “That was the one they liked. They liked that it had a certain percentage between steps.”

Bus driver pay would also rise from $12.80 to $14 per hour, which would be higher than the region average, Forsman said. Nurses, she said, are in the final year of a three-year increase, while the division is also looking at moving all of its 24 part-time custodians to full time status at a cost of $357,500, as well as moving 10-month custodians to 12-month custodians. That would affect 11 employees, Forsman said, at a cost of $44,000.

She said the division is also looking at increasing high school coaching supplements on a percentage basis, and per-game or event increases for middle school coaches, referees and scorekeepers. The division is also looking at offering certain clubs a sponsorship stipend, though she said it was too early to specify which ones might receive it.

Forsman said retirement costs would also increase, with the professional rate, she said, increasing from 17.29 percent of payroll, to 18.3 percent. The projected cost of the increase would be $142,200. Life insurance rates also increased slightly, she said.

Gov. Ralph Northam unveils his proposed two-year budget Dec. 17, which will give Forsman and the division a better idea of what funding would be available to them from the state.

“I hope we will see increases for all of our staff,” said board chairwoman Phyllis Byrum.