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Money for more Pasco schools upgrades comes from administration building fund

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County School Board members have been adamant for months that superintendent Heather Fiorentino transfer $10 million set aside for a new administration building to more pressing capital needs.

They got a hint of Fiorentino's latest plans in a memo circulated Tuesday.

In it, Fiorentino shows that $1.66 million of the money has been reallocated already. The projects it will pay for include:

• Recarpeting at Deer Park Elementary: $150,000

• Air conditioning repairs at River Ridge Middle/High: $850,000 (Phase 1)

• Software licensing to improve district technology: $200,000

"We did try to answer all the questions you had from the capital outlay workshop (in November)," chief financial officer Olga Swinson told the board, advising that she would ask for a budget amendment in January. "We're taking $1.66 million."

But board members were not completely impressed. They had first told Fiorentino in the summer that they did not want the money set aside for office space, as Fiorentino and her team had proposed. Even if work space is cramped at the district office, they said, the district's limited resources should support needs at schools first.

So the news that the administrative team had reallocated 16 percent of the money elicited little more than a "That's all?" from board member Kathryn Starkey.

Not really, Swinson answered. This amount represents the first round of changes to the capital projects budget, she said.

More money will be moved as the district figures out how much it needs to spend on technology and alternative education changes.

Those recommendations are scheduled to arrive in January.

"They are gathering the information to make the appropriate changes," board chairman Allen Altman said. "That document is a work in progress and certainly does not reflect what will ultimately be done."

Assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said an advisory committee has been meeting since the fall to discuss ways to improve the district's alternative education programs. Some of the new methods could include the use of computers and software, she said, as the district seeks to help students make up for lost academic ground.

Such changes could require spending some capital funds, Altman said.

He also expected to receive a report on the hardware and software capabilities at each school — information that will help the administration and board determine where to best invest the money that had been set aside for an administration building.

"We are going to get something different, and they are working on it," Altman said. "If you're going to do it right, it takes time."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Money for more Pasco schools upgrades comes from administration building fund 12/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:57pm]
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