Why has Pinellas' shortfall grown?
If you read today's paper, you probably saw reporter Cara Fitzpatrick's report that Pinellas County's finance team is projecting a much larger budget deficit than was expected as recently as last week:
Kevin Smith, assistant superintendent of budget and resource allocation, said Monday that the district faces a possible $14 million deficit, far higher than the $5 million hole discussed as recently as last week. Smith said projections for the shortfall in the $1.3 billion budget have been "tracking higher" since March and April.
Smith today explained the shortfall a little more in-depth with The Gradebook. He said that the bulk of the increases are coming from three areas: charter school enrollment will cost the district about $3 million more in projected revenue as students move from traditional schools to charter schools; electricity costs are coming in $1 million more than planned; and worker's compensation costs are running $1 million more than anticipated.
He said that approximate additional $5 million swing in expenditures means the district will have to plan to cut even more out of the 2012-13 budget, which is contributing to the $14 million figure.
Revenues from the local property tax that contributes to teachers salaries is also expected to be down by $131 per teacher, he said. That would take the supplement from $2,983 to $2,852, the lowest salary contribution since the first year teachers got the additional pay in 2005-06. That year, the supplement was $2,625.
All this raises the obvious question of how this news will impact ongoing employee contract negotiations.
The way things are looking, employees will be headed into summer without any word on how much they'll be making and how much more they might be paying for health care in 2012-13.
Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, expressed frustration over the latest news. She is still pushing for a pay increase for employees. "In this down economy," she said, "they can't afford additional cuts."