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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas schools budget slightly less gloomy

If you're superstitious, knock on wood. The Pinellas school district's gaping budget hole actually looks - dare we say it? - slightly less deep in the wake of the legislative session - and may actually be less than the $60 million that had been targeted. "Based upon the finance team's preliminary review it looks like we are facing cuts more in the range of $53.3 million or higher, but less than $60 million," district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn told The Gradebook in an email. "Please remember these are still estimates."

The big reason for the change: A substantial decrease in the amount the district must contribute to the Florida Retirement System.

True, some of the Legislature's education cuts got bigger at the end and would have deepened the district's deficit. But at the same time, lawmakers decreased the amount of money that districts are required to pay into FRS - a decrease that went beyond the 3 percent contribution that employees will now have to pay into the system.

The district's budget model included the $13.4 million in "savings" that came from the employee contributions. But the total savings from the FRS changes adds up to about $30 million, said Fred Matz, the district's chief financial officer.

The school board is holding another budget workshop Monday. We expect to hear more details then. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 5:37pm]


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