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School Board to meet on budget

With decreases in both state and local funding, the Suffolk School Board will meet Tuesday to find those cuts and approve its budget.

While Suffolk Public Schools will have to cut more than $4.3 million out of its budget for fiscal year 2021, the overall budget of $158.4 million for its operating fund is still more than $5.4 million than its current year budget. Combined with its grants and food services fund, the overall budget would be $178.6 million.

But it still means the board will have to find savings from what it approved and sent to council more than two months ago.

Among the recommend changes proposed:

  • Reductions to staff raises
  • Delay parts of the SPS Efficiency and Effectiveness plan to the following year
  • Remove most of the new proposed positions and delay them until the following year
  • Fund most student-focused expenses with CARES Act funding (for expenses that qualify)
  • Reduce or eliminate equipment replacements

The budget will still usher in a new teacher pay scale, with starting salaries to increase from $43,155 to $45,000, with experienced teachers’ salaries going up from $66,997 for those with 29-plus years of experience, to $75,379 for teachers with 34-plus years of experience. There will also be equal percentage increases between steps on the teacher pay scale.

A new pay scale for bus drivers would still be implemented with drivers starting out at $14.60 per hour.

The division will also still add one instructional technology resource teacher, and will increase the professional learning budget for teachers and staff.

Full-time support staff will receive a 1-percent cost of living adjustment, while permanent part-time staff will receive a half-percent cost of living adjustment. Nurses and nurse assistants are in year three of a three-year salary increase. Athletic coaches and club sponsors will also still see increases to their stipends.

However, the division is also preparing for the possibility of more budget cuts that could reach about $6.1 million with projected state revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Already, the state has suspended supplemental lottery payments for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. In the approved budget for next year, the division has nearly $3.6 million in such revenues. The division could also lose around $2.76 million in sales tax money — which would represent a revenue shortfall of 15 percent — though the state has not yet lowered its sales tax projections for the next fiscal year

Wendy Forsman, the division’s executive finance director, outlined possible changes to the budget should sales tax and lottery money drop, according to a presentation she is to give to the board.

If those revenue cuts come to fruition, the division would work with the city to potentially re-appropriate current year spending from not buying equipment and supplies, enact spending/hiring freezes once the actual revenue is trending lower than projected and carefully monitor the economic impacts of sales tax and lottery revenue reports.

The virtual meeting begins at 5 p.m. and will be streamed through the division’s website at spsk12.net. A copy of the agenda can be found at https://bit.ly/SchoolBoardAgenda0526, while the budget previously approved by the board can be found at https://bit.ly/SPSbudget2021.