Teacher asks if Pasco complies with new state spending laws
As part of its education funding legislation, the Florida Legislature took several steps last spring to force school boards to consider how much certain nonstudent-related items cost them. Among other things, it mandated:
- Reduction of superintendent salaries
- Setting of board member salaries at the level of a first-year teacher
- Specific approval of administrator contracts beyond 10 months
- Specific approval of spending district funds on cell phone and related service
At a sparsely attended budget public hearing, Land O'Lakes High teacher (and regular Gradebook commenter) Pat Connolly pointedly asked the Pasco School Board whether it is following the law. "As the budget for 2009-10 is being readied," he said, "it is important to be sure that we are in compliance with these legislative changes, particularly as these changes force savings in certain areas and free up funds for use elsewhere."
Like salaries. (Did we mention Connolly is on the Pasco teachers contract bargaining team?)
Board chairman Frank Parker quickly responded. "Let me assure you that we are in compliance with the law," he promised. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino jumped in to note that a cell phone policy will be coming to the table in August, and hadn't yet been acted on. (We're still waiting on specifics, which of course we will share.)
But what about these other issues Connolly mentioned? We found that, indeed, the district is on its way to meeting the many legislative mandates, regardless of whether some see them as lawmaker meddling.
The board approved all administrative contracts longer than 10 months at the end of June. It has plans to adopt salaries for its members and the superintendent in the fall as it does every year, along the guidelines generally set by the state Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
Other things also appear in the law. These include:
- A general ban on using district money for out-of-state travel without board approval (the board already takes up each such request individually, and has canceled its employee recruiting program)
- The end of counting study hall as student contact hours for funding (Pasco does not offer study hall)
- A limit on the capital outlay tax rate to 1.5 mills with the ability to levy an additional 0.25 mills for critical needs (the district has opted not to pursue the extra amount).
We'll keep an eye on all this as the district heads toward its formal adoption of its 2009-10 budget in September.