Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hurricane Irma cost Pasco County schools about $3 million, officials say

The September threat of Hurricane Irma cost Pasco County schools more than seven days of missed classroom time.

Twenty-two schools schools opened as shelters to serve more than 22,000 residents and 2,000 pets. That activity, from opening the doors to cleaning up afterward, cost the district $3.02 million, chief finance officer Olga Swinson reported Tuesday.

Of that amount, Swinson said, she expected to recover only about half as a reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And that won't come any time soon, suggested board member Allen Altman, an insurance agent.

Altman said he had heard of school districts still waiting for refunds from past years' hurricanes. So no one should hold their breath waiting for Pasco's $1.58 million to return, he said.

Like Pinellas County schools, Pasco's largest single expense was payroll, at $933,633. District officials said approximately 1,500 employees and 548 volunteers worked in the schools before, during and after Irma.

Food costs also were a large item. The district provided 125,356 meals to shelter residents, valued at $294,541. That does not include another $57,900 for spoiled food because of power outages, and $1.3 million in unrealized meal sales because students were not attending.

Other costs included transporting storm evacuees, emergency cleaning and debris disposal.

The amounts for items missing from schools and permanent damage to structures were among the lower items, as the storm brushed by much of the county at a lesser impact than anticipated. Those costs were $4,689 and $65,000, respectively.

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