If you thought this year looks bad...
A group of Florida's school finance officers got word Friday that the budget picture looks no better for 2008-09 or 2009-10, either. "The state of Florida is experiencing fewer visitors, and some of that migration out because of the storms has affected state revenue," says Hernando finance director Deborah Bruggink, who attended a Florida School Finance Council meeting with deputy commissioner Linda Champion in Tallahassee. "That really was the gist of it."
With the income expected to remain down, Bruggink predicts school districts will have to make fundamental changes in the way they deliver services. At a time when districts are trying to offer competitive teacher salaries, she says, the news is "like bad on bad."
Hoping to stave off the most dire cuts when lawmakers meet in special session to deal with an expected $1-billion shortfall - most likely on Sept. 17 - top district officials already are seeking recommendations that would hurt ongoing operations least. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents has sent out a list to kick off a discussion. (The memo pointedly notes these are not proposals - yet.) They are:
- Hold expenditures directly related to the classroom harmless.
- Hold class size reduction funds harmless, because it's a constitutional amendment.
- Significantly modify, reduce or eliminate programs that provide bonuses (such as teacher performance pay and school recognition).
- Eliminate new programs.
- Reduce or eliminate increases over last year, or "level fund" programs.
Some lawmakers have indicated that some ideas, such as delaying the bonus programs, are non-starters because they don't want to penalize excellence. Stay tuned.