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Hillsborough County budget plan calls for $140 million in cuts

Tampa

News videographer helps save driver

News videographer John Deal was prepared for a day of light news — covering children with perfect conduct at Northwest Elementary School.

But something about the crashed red truck off the Veterans Expressway made him stop his 10 Connects live truck about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Along with a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, Deal walked to the passenger side of the truck, knocked on the tinted windows and opened the door.

Inside, Brett Hawkins of Spring Hill was crunched beneath the dashboard. Thick smoke rushed from the engine as flames began to grow. Hawkins screamed in agony, and Deal let loose with a fire extinguisher on Hawkins' legs. Hawkins was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he was in critical condition.

"If being a hero means being scared, I was Superman," Deal said. "I wasn't really scared of the fire or anything. I just didn't want this guy to die."

Tampa

Charter schools warned about poor grades

Four more charter schools have been put on notice that they could lose their license to operate as Hillsborough public schools.

Carl Sagan, Anderson Elementary, Richardson Montessori and ReBirth academies have all been told by the district that their students' academic performance has put their contracts in jeopardy. Sagan received its third consecutive D grade last year, while ReBirth got its second. The other two schools received F grades.

A fifth charter school, Metropolitan Ministries Academy, was put on notice last month.

TAMPA — Consumer protection: Eliminated. Code enforcement: Slashed by 25 percent. Dog catcher patrols: Leashed. Regional parks: Closed two days a week. Nonprofits: Weaned of taxpayer money.

Those are some of the highlights of a draft of proposed budget reductions obtained by the St. Petersburg Times that Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean will present to commissioners today.

The 12-page list includes nearly $140 million in spending cuts, down from last year's operating budget of roughly $1 billion. It would eliminate 900 jobs, or about one-sixth of the county's work force. It spares few programs, lopping everything from environmental protection to economic development.

A popular after-school program that survived the ax last year once again faces the prospect of being eliminated.

The copy obtained by the Times is not Bean's final recommendation, but rather a late version that provides a detailed glimpse into how she is leaning.

Upset that the list of potential cuts had been leaked, she declined comment, and her budget director immediately sought to identify the source.

Bean did provide a copy of a recorded statement she will make to employees on the county's Intranet today.

"I have worked for county government for more than 32 years (and) this is the most difficult time we have ever encountered," she said. "County government as we have known it will be changed forever."

Hillsborough County budget plan calls for $140 million in cuts 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 10:11pm]
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