Thursday, July 19, 2018
Education

Cuts loom as school officials digest effects of state budget

Concerns over the Florida Legislature's education budget have prompted Pasco County School District officials to look for ways to cut spending as soon as possible.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has asked all principals and department heads to freeze at least one full-time position and to begin drafting plans to reduce their expenses by 10 percent. The district suspended all future out-of-state travel, unless it is a requirement of a grant-funded program, and placed added restrictions on in-state travel.

"My team will begin looking at cost-saving measures across the district that could impact transportation, dual enrollment, athletics, new positions, etc.," Browning told School Board members via email. "Please know that all of these activities will include your input and for now we are just compiling information for what we think is coming."

Changes in initiatives funded by federal Title I funds, directed toward helping low-income children, also are under scrutiny. Lawmakers moved to change the way that schools use the money, leading Pasco to ask principals to suspend hiring in those areas, too.

The administration did not expect any immediate changes, until they fully understand the impact of the state budget and companion implementing language.

ATHLETIC TRAINERS: For several years, Pasco County high schools have benefited from a Florida Hospital-subsidized contract allowing them to have certified athletic trainers available for sporting events. But that time has ended.

The hospital has informed the district it would no longer keep the contract, because of business considerations.

It offered to continue providing trainers at the high schools nearest its sites, according to the district. "But because we can't finalize our budget until the Legislature and governor approve the state budget, we were unable to get approval of the contract within a time frame that the hospitals needed to move forward," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe told School Board members in a recent update.

In the past, schools have relied upon the trainers as the best way to tend to student-athletes who become injured. District leaders even turned aside requests to have EMS services at all games, saying the trainers were more effective and efficient at dealing with problems as they arise.

Trainers can identify and treat most injuries, and know when to call for additional assistance, officials said.

Already, district leaders have begun hearing from parents who want to see the trainers remain. The parents sang the trainers' praises for dealing with everything from cheerleaders hurt doing stunts to student photographers tackled while taking pictures at games.

"If there is any way this can be corrected, please do so!" Zephyrhills mom and teacher Michelle Hoskins wrote to superintendent Kurt Browning. "I know we are under budget constraints, but safety should be top priority!"

The district plans to look into other associations to continue having athletic trainers at events.

Pay raises: Since the School Board ratified 3 percent salary increases for all employees, faculty and staff members have begun asking when the back pay might arrive.

That all depends on their own vote for or against the contract terms.

The United School Employees of Pasco has announced its plan to hold the referendum May 16. School district couriers are set to pick up all the ballots May 17 and deliver them to the union, which intends to count them May 18.

If the deal is approved, the school district finance team would have to set up systems to calculate and generate the checks. So start thinking the very end of the school year — around the same time the sides will begin negotiations on the 2017-18 contract.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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