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School Board adopts $196.3 million budget

With no changes in the allocation to Suffolk Public Schools from City Council, the School Board adopted its $196.3 million budget for fiscal year 2022 by a 6-1 vote during a brief virtual meeting May 26.

The council fully funded the school division’s request for $65.3 million as it adopted a city budget of $698 million last week despite criticism from some that it lacks transparency.

Following the vote during the brief virtual meeting May 26, board chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck defended the budget from critics and said proof of how well the division is doing would be seen during upcoming graduation ceremonies. She noted that less than one-twelfth of 1% of people in the community who voted in the most recent election expressed any written concern about the budget.

“Everyone else understood — in essence, the majority of the 40,000 people who voted in the last election understood what we presented,” Brooks-Buck said, “and so I thank you, and I want to say to you, the 90-some thousand citizens who live in the city of Suffolk, we did a good job, and it will show our progress is long-term. We have 1,050 students who will graduate, and if anybody has concerns about their investment, we invite you on June 12 to look and see what we have done.”

Prior to the vote, Chief Financial Officer Wendy Forsman reviewed the budget with the board.

Besides the city’s appropriation, which makes up 33.85% of the division’s budget, it will receive just over $100 million in state money and $26.2 million in federal money, more than double last year’s federal money due primarily to CARES Act money it has received. It also will receive $4.1 million in other funds — non-state or non-federal grant sources. The state money represents 52.16% of the budget and the federal dollars 13.58%.

The operating fund in the budget is $165.6 million, the grants fund about $22.8 million and the food services fund $7.9 million.

Teachers will get anywhere from a 2.83% to a 4.58% raise depending on their experience, as the state budget requires local divisions to provide a 5% raise over two years. With this year’s raises for teachers, they will receive anywhere from a 7.83% to a 10.58% raise over the two-year state budget.

Teachers with 0 to 10 years of experience will also get a 1% step raise, and a 1.75% raise will go to those with 11 to 34 years of experience. As a result, starting teacher salaries will increase to more than $46,700 per year.

Bus drivers, after getting moved to a new pay scale in the current budget that put starting pay at $14.60 per hour, they received a 1% step increase for fiscal year 2022.

Of its budget, the school division will spend nearly 76% of its budget — almost $148.8 million — on instruction. It will spend another $16.5 million on facilities and maintenance, $8.75 million on pupil transportation, nearly $8 million each for food services and technology, about $3.8 million for administration and attendance, and almost $2.6 million on health and psychology.

The budget includes $1.7 million to add 23.6 full-time equivalent positions — eight new teachers and other school-related positions, a special education adaptive physical education teacher specialist, a social worker, two required elementary school counselors, two high school in-school suspension monitors, a security monitor/crossing guard, a nurse assistant and a part-time nurse assistant.

Board member Sherri Story was the lone vote against the budget.

A copy of the approved budget can be viewed at http://bit.ly/SPSadopted21-22budget.