Pasco budget balanced, but concerns remain over unfunded mandates
Pasco School Board members expressed confidence on Tuesday that they have crafted a balanced budget for 2011-12, despite the need to cut $54 million in spending.
Layoffs and furloughs, which remain under negotiation, have gotten the district to even, chief finance officer Olga Swinson said.
"However," she said, "we have unfunded mandates and I don't have any reserves."
She noted that the district will lose the money it had received for charter school administrative support. It must create middle school career academies. It has to create and implement teacher and principal evaluations and prepare for performance-based pay.
Even the Legislature's decision to expand access to opportunity scholarships will cost. The district must provide transportation to students who seek transfers under the program, she said, yet "we don't have any funds available." The state only covers half the district's busing costs as it is, Swinson said.
Things don't look likely to improve, board vice chairman Allen Altman said. He noted that the district will lose $21 million in revenue for operations next year again. "We have used up all available resources," he said, suggesting that the hard decisions will continue.
The School Board is scheduled to have its first public hearing on the fiscal 2012 budget at 6 p.m. Tuesday.