Will the sky fall on schools under property tax reform?
If Florida voters approve a constitutional amendment next January to further reduce property taxes, Pinellas schools could lose up to $70-million a year, superintendent Clayton Wilcox told board members today.
He said the district could lay off its entire administrative staff at district headquarters in Largo and still not make up half of that amount. It could layoff all its art teachers, guidance counselors and PE teachers and it would only cover 75 percent of the loss, he said.
Yes, $70-million is a sky-is-falling number, the superintendent conceded. It assumes legislators won’t make good on promises to adequately fund education by making up the deficit with other kinds of revenue (Many local officials doubt they can).
But it’s best to be prepared, Wilcox told his board. “Every penny we can put into reserve would be the responsible thing to do as a wedge against what could happen,’’ he said. “We’re running a very, very tight ship right now.’’
On the same topic, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch made light of Tallahassee’s dim view of local government spending habits as he and more than a dozen other representatives of the Juvenile Welfare Board introduced themselves to the School Board. When it was his turn, he identified himself as “Ken Welch, drunken sailor.”
-Tom Tobin, Pinellas schools reporter