Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
Evacuees settle in at the emergency shelter at John Hopkins Middle School on Saturday, September 9, 2017 in St. Petersburg. The school was beginning to fill up with people evacuating before Hurricane Irma makes landfall. The shelter welcomes people from the area with pets and those with special needs.
EVE EDELHEIT | Times Evacuees settle in at the emergency shelter at John Hopkins Middle School on Saturday, September 9, 2017 in St. Petersburg. The school was beginning to fill up with people evacuating before Hurricane Irma makes landfall. The shelter welcomes people from the area with pets and those with special needs.
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Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.

The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursement of $2.65 million.

Payroll was the district’s largest expense, costing $2.1 million. Designated school administrators and school staff, such as maintenance crew and cafeteria workers, are contractually required to work during a hurricane.

Pinellas County school district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said 17 employees are being internally investigated for failing to show up for hurricane duty.

The next largest expense of nearly $300,000 went to Lang Environmental to clean schools and buses. Smaller expenses include food, enough for three meals a day ($124,479), utilities ($41,790), supplies such as paper towels and toilet paper ($25,281), busing 2,000 evacuees to shelters ($18,327), items lost from shelters ($4,023) and fuel for generators ($3,216).

The district does not yet have figures for how much it will seek in property damage claims. Wolf said 129 schools reported damage from property damage to cleaning up downed trees and branches.

Skyview Elementary in Pinellas Park suffered roof damage during the storm and rain poured into four classrooms. The school district paid to repair the roof and replace carpets and cabinets.

Wolf said the district has a storm-related insurance deductible of $500,000 so the district will claim a minimum of $500,000 with FEMA. She said the district will claim any amounts that the insurance company denies.

Pasco County will finalize its reimbursement figures by next week, but district officials said during pay negotiations with the teacher’s union that payroll costs during the hurricane topped $1.1 million and more than 120,000 meals were served to residents in the shelters.

Pasco expects to be fully reimbursed for the cost in three to five years.

Times staff writer Jeff Solochek contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

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