Gov. Crist announces another round of cuts
The governor's Budget Office has just sent word that it will hold back 15 percent of the remaining funds for all state agencies, perhaps meaning even more cuts for schools before the end of the fiscal year in June.
The move was not welcome, but neither was it unexpected.
Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino had word of the possible cut early in the day. She said the district already had taken steps to not spend the $9.2 million earlier in the year -- the first time the state made noises about keeping another 2 percent in funding.
"We're still ahead of the state on being prepared for these cuts," Fiorentino said. "Next year will be a different story."
Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia sent a memo to all staff warning that an added 15 percent cut could mean the slashing of $14 million beyond the $150 million shortfall the district already faces. "I believe more strongly than ever that steps we have taken have been absolutely necessary," she wrote, "and in fact we will need to do more."
Pinellas deputy superintendent Harry Brown found the news disturbing but not particularly surprising:
"The budget folks had some idea this might happen. Certainly our intent was that if we were stung with that extra percentage, the stimulus money would help us."
Brown said that the district's budget and finance staff would be working through the weekend and Monday prior to making a presentation to School Board members at a budget workshop already scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
For his part, Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith told superintendents to remain calm.
"I have every expectation that the full amount of the fourth quarter funds will be released and, therefore, am authorizing payments to school districts at 100 percent for the month of April and early May," he said in a letter to superintendents. "However, I must advise school districts to be extremely prudent with expenditures for the month of April and throughout the remainder of the fiscal year."