School Board approves budget, asks for $67.3 million from city as part of its request

Published 6:20 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

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In a 6-1 vote, the Suffolk School Board approved its budget for the next fiscal year Thursday and asked the city to appropriate $67.3 million as part of its request.

Board member Sherri Story, who said she supported the raises for staff, nonetheless was the lone no vote, saying she did not support the addition of administrative positions.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III proposed a $232.5 million budget that calls for pay raises and adds 28 new positions.

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The raises for teachers would range from 7.46% to 8.26%, and for support staff, they would receive 5% to 5.5% raises, and bus drivers a 5.84% raise, with their minimum pay increasing to $15.30 per hour.

Gordon said the raises are needed to be competitive with pay scales in neighboring school divisions to help retain its staff and attract new people to Suffolk Public Schools.

If adopted, the pay scale for teachers would increase by about $3,000 at the low end of the scale, from $46,350 to $49,316. At the higher end of the scale for more experienced teachers, it would increase about $5,000, from $77,641 to $82,610.

The budget calls for a $2 million increase in local money and it projects state funding at about $106.3 million, about $7.9 million more than the division has from the state in its current budget. But the final amount it will get from the state won’t be known until the General Assembly passes a budget and Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs it. That’s expected sometime in May.

The state’s part of the budget has a 5% raise for teachers in each year of its biennium budget. Gordon said during his budget presentation last month that the 5% is what’s driving the division’s budget.

City Council is scheduled to vote in May on the city’s allocation to the school division, and then the board will meet again in a special meeting to formally adopt the budget. Council is supposed to finalize the budget by May 15, or within 30 days after it receives the estimate of state money, whichever comes later. By state law, Gordon, with approval of the board, had to submit its budget request to the city by April 1.

The proposed budget also includes about $1.1 million in federal revenue—reimbursement from JROTC and impact aid, along with $806,880 in other funds, made up of rents, interest, tuition and fees.

Ten teachers are proposed in the division’s fiscal 2023 budget—six at the secondary level, three specialists and one for the new Center for Performing and Production Arts program that will start at Lakeland High School at the beginning of the next school year. It also includes four elementary in-school suspension monitors, five school assessment assistants at the elementary and middle school levels, two school counselors and one instructional technology resource teacher.

The budget also includes funding for a pair of new administrative positions—a chief of schools and a supervisor of auxiliary programs—along with a master trades-plumber, a media and communications technician and administrative assistants for the two new administrative posts.

The 28 new positions—22 of which Gordon says would be straightforward instruction positions—would cost the division about $18 million, with raises for current staff costing about $6.7 million and operating cost increases of close to $1.4 million.

Chief Financial Officer Wendy Forsman said the division should be competitive with surrounding school divisions with the pay scales that would come with the proposed budget.