SPS dives into 2024-2025 proposed budget

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

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Suffolk School Board held a special meeting at City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 29, to discuss the Proposed Superintendent Budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. 

During the meeting, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III and Chief Financial Officer Wendy K. Forsman provided an overview of the proposed $242,729,721 budget to the board, which sees a 6.59% increase. This includes the operating fund of $198,168,167, the grants fund of $34,220,000, and the food services fund of $10,341,554. Gordon also detailed a total city funding of $75,332,201. Included in the total is a request of $3,000,000 for safety, security, and support and $1,000,000 for sinkhole repairs. Gordon also suggested the city use revenue from the speed camera project for sinkhole repairs.

“These speed camera zones are occurring in front of our schools. The fund is actually used for safety. Sinkholes on school property is a safety issue,” Gordon said.

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Gordon detailed that the C.A.R.E.S. Act III funding cliff is Sept. 30, 2024. He also noted the operating budget increase due to professional learning, curriculum writing, virtual learning software, and more being moved from C.A.R.E.S. Act III to the operating budget. Items like tele-mental health for students and staff, recruitment and retention stipends and Chromebook replacement devices needed additional funding. At the same time, in-person tutoring and virtual Saturday Academy will be moved to the State All-In funding. 

Gordon also discussed that the safety of students and staff remains a top priority while discussing student growth and literacy, pay raises, and early childhood as focused investments. On Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s current budget, which calls for a 1% bonus, Gordon noted his proposed budget would include a “step raise” of 1 to 1.75%. Bus drivers would receive a 1% from the step raise, while support and administration would receive a 1 to 1.5% increase. He detailed that employees at the top of the scale receive a 1% bonus if the governor’s budget is adopted. Regarding early childhood education, Gordon discussed wanting to add a new Pre-K classroom at Booker T. Washington Elementary and having a long-term goal of opening an SPS preschool center in the future.

Forsman discussed that most money increases with Facilities and Maintenance was listed at $2,843,564, Technology at $1,011,881 and Food Services at $773,958. The highest increase went to instruction, topping at $11,253,978, which includes the $5.8 million State All-In funding. Gordon provided a timeline of events following the special budget meeting.

“After we do our proposed budget here today, we will then have a public hearing on the budget at the March 14 regular school board meeting. Also, during that board meeting, we will also ask the school board to set a special meeting in order to approve the budget,” Gordon said. “After the budget has been approved, the budget then goes to the City of Suffolk. I’m sure we will have some discussions with the City of Suffolk during a spring joint meeting that is tentatively being planned.”

Gordon says that per the Virginia code, the city will have until May 15 to determine how much money will be appropriated to the school division. Following that determination, another special school board meeting will be held to adopt the budget.

To watch the full presentation, go to youtube.com/user/SuffolkSchools.