Contact officials now

Published 10:22 pm Monday, December 16, 2019

Preliminary discussions have begun for the Suffolk Public Schools budget, and even though the public hearings and approval of the budget won’t happen for several more months, the time to start contacting your officials is now.

In a recent School Board meeting, 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.

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.”

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A higher burden from the state plus increasing local needs has the potential to make a very difficult budget season, and it will be a challenge unless everybody gets involved.

Contact your School Board representatives and let them know what your budget priorities are. It may be that their priorities do not line up with yours, and they can’t realign them to meet your needs unless they hear from parents, teachers and others with a front-line interest in the school system.

Contact your City Council representatives and let them know you want the city’s public education to be a priority when the city budget is crafted. In our large city, there are many things to take care of, and things like transportation and public safety also need attention. Council members need to hear from you about your priorities.

Above all, contact your General Assembly representatives and tell them to properly fund public education and stop passing along unfunded mandates to local school systems.