Despite fluctuations, Hernando school budget looks promising

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District's 2013-14 budget looks as if it will wind up in positive territory, without any cuts for schools — despite some newly added expenditures and other changes.

During a School Board workshop Tuesday, district officials reviewed a tentative budget of $164.3 million, up more than $11 million from last year. It calls for an ending fund balance of about $4.4 million, or 3.04 percent of estimated revenue.

The reserve estimate would put the district just above the minimum required to keep Hernando off the state's watch list.

"Although there is good news — we have additional money — our expenditures certainly have increased as well," said Heather Martin, the district's executive director of business services.

What's especially concerning to Martin: Most of the ending fund balance is either restricted or assigned for specific purposes.

"We are in no way out of the financial concern and budget crunch that we have experienced the last couple of years," she said. "We still have to talk about the money that is available in the event that there is some type of emergency or whatever the case may be that might cause us to dip into the fund balance."

Board members listened to the brief budget forecast without comment, except to commend the staff members who put it together.

After the meeting, board Chairman Matt Foreman reiterated Martin's message.

"It's a positive sign," Foreman said. "The fact that there hasn't been any edict to cut as we have in past years is a positive sign."

He added: "We're not out of the budget crunch by any stretch."

The district's budget forecast is in a constant state of flux, with many of the numbers having changed between the time the presentation was prepared and when it went before the board Tuesday.

Among the biggest changes: factoring in new expenditures related to dual enrollment, the program that allows high school students to take community college classes for free.

The Florida Legislature this year enacted a law requiring public schools to pay the bill for those classes. Previously, colleges absorbed most of the cost.

The school district estimates it will have to spend an additional $450,000 for the dual enrollment program during the coming school year.

Several other aspects of the budget also have changed in recent days, including the amount of money the district expects to carry over from its 2012-13 budget — a figure that now sits at $8.27 million.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said the district won't know that actual number until after July 1.

"Obviously there are some changes that took place," Blavatt said. "It's going to keep changing. When you do a projected budget, it's your best projections."

He said the district staff has tried to put together a balanced budget.

"It looks good," he said, "if everything pans out."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Despite fluctuations, Hernando school budget looks promising 06/25/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 7:50pm]

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