SPS approves proposed $242 million budget

Published 10:00 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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Suffolk, Virginia —The Suffolk School Board approved the proposed superintendent’s budget during its second special school board meeting on Monday, March 25, in a 5 to 2 vote, with Board Members Dr. DawnMarie Brittingham and Kimberly Slingluff voting in opposition. 

The proposed budget of $242,729,721 for the 2024-2025 fiscal year is a 6.59% increase from last year’s budget. The budget total includes the $198,168,167 operating fund, the $34,220,000 grants fund, the $10,341,554 food services fund, and the total city appropriation of $75,332,201.

In her opposition, Slingluff said she has some “lingering requests” that have not been satisfied. 

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“I know it’s a small drop in the bucket, but as a board, I feel that it is prudent and wise that we as a board evaluate our own money that are allocated and budgeted, and we participate in that portion of our budget to determine where we’re spending the small bean of money that has been granted to us,” Slingluff said. “And at this time, although I’ve requested the specifics of that, I understand there may be some challenges and duress for the staff to produce that report. It leaves me a little unsettled because I feel that is an important part that we should be modeling for the school system — that we, as a board, are looking at that small bean of money that’s been given to us and determining where it’s being allocated, whether it’s still should be allocated there or whether we want to allocate it otherwise whether we can trim anything of our own budget or whether we need to enhance it in any way.”

Slingluff continued, questioning the transparency due to her inability to review the specifics she requested. 

“I feel that there’s not enough transparency in that portion of the budget and that I literally asked for that portion and that is reflective of the board, so it doesn’t reflect to the superintendent or his staff. It represents our money and it’s an accountability for this board to spend their money wisely. And how I like to see the board transparent with those moneys.”

Following the meeting, SPS Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III discussed the budget’s future.

“We are looking forward to our joint meeting on April 10 with the City where we’ll discuss not only the overall City of Suffolk budget but also Suffolk Public Schools budget,” Gordon said. “ … City Manager [Albert] Moor has told me that he’s planning for the city to let us know how much we’ll be allocated on May 1, and that’s going to trigger everything else for us. There might be some amendments to the budget once the board adopts it in May based on some of the discussions that we’ve heard previously, but we’re happy that we’ve got this step done.”

Gordon also commented on what he wants to see in the future following the joint meeting decision and the budget later in the year.

“The main thing is always going to be retaining our talent and also keeping up with the region when it comes to pay scale. The second thing is putting larger amounts of money in our areas of need. And we really made a conscious effort to do that this year,” he said. “Unfortunately, we still had some comments that try to say that we didn’t, but we are very strategic in what we’ve done. Huge focus on special education, changing physicians is for the betterment to make sure that everything is being with fidelity and when you’re using contractor services and purchase services for physicians that can potentially occur in SPS, we think that’s a better way to get the bang for our buck. We have been more than open and transparent with the entire process.”

Board Member Phyllis Byrum said that she had no concerns about the budget going forward.

“I think we are asking the city for an additional $4 million over what we have previously had in the past, and I think that is reasonable considering conditions and inflation and all types of things that we’re dealing with…,” Byrum said. “I think we have been asked on numerous occasions if we had any questions, we’ve been asked on numerous occasions to give suggestions and feedback and I think most of us have done that, and I am glad that we are participating.”