Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco board considers priorities as school maintenance projects go unfunded

BAYONET POINT — On any given day, any one of the air conditioning units at Bayonet Point Middle School is likely to go on the fritz.

They're mostly original from the school's 1975 debut, and they've been subject to the Band-aid treatment as they break down and students swelter.

Principal Mike Asbell had hoped to have the system replaced this year. It appeared on the Pasco County school district's 225-item, $18 million wish list for capital maintenance projects.

But by the time the list got whittled down to fit budget realities, only 36 projects valued at $3 million remained. That's an average of $3,500 per building, with not every building getting a share. (By comparison, the district budgeted $5.9 million for the same purpose just two years ago.)

Bayonet Point's air conditioning replacement stood among the dozens of requests denied for lack of funding.

Throughout the district, roof-covered walkways were completely eliminated, along with restroom plumbing projects, flooring replacements and playground equipment.

"Everything (dealing with) life, safety, health and emergencies are absolutely taken care of," maintenance director Gerry Brown said.

But capital maintenance projects — think of these as the big ticket items and not their daily care — continue to suffer as the district puts its limited available resources into new school construction instead.

"Is it more cost effective to do preventive maintenance than to react to things that are broken?" Brown said. "It's like changing the oil in a car. It's $26 to change the oil, $2,600 to replace the engine. It's the same with buildings."

If the district had $6 million to tackle these needs, he said, it would be making progress. At $3 million, "we're basically taking care of the critical items and hoping we don't get the emergency," Brown said.

So Lacoochee Elementary will continue to go without a playground. It's fiscally understandable, principal Karen Marler said, but it doesn't make the outcome any easier for children.

Some School Board members are dissatisfied with the administration's priorities.

During a workshop this week, they told superintendent Heather Fiorentino to set new priorities within the district's $65.3 million capital projects budget. They made clear their desire to move money out of a proposed new administration building and into more pressing needs, such as these unfunded maintenance projects and also school technology improvements.

"With the budget constraints we face, it's a more appropriate use of dollars to maintain the facilities that we have before we build additional facilities," board vice chairman Allen Altman said.

He observed that technology and maintenance projects align with the district's long-range strategic vision, and insisted that the budget should closely follow that vision.

"We have set some good priorities," agreed board member Kathryn Starkey.

She figured the district could free up millions by not spending so much on the administration building, while also saving money on the demolition of Sanders Elementary School and convincing the private sector to support a portion of a new culinary arts academy at Land O'Lakes High School.

Fiorentino lobbied for the administration building, and has set aside about $10 million for it. But she also acknowledged that the board had made its wishes clear, and said she would meet with her staff to create a new list.

Brown said the changes that emerge might give the schools a little breathing room.

"With this new direction, we're going to be able to catch a few more things before they break," he said.

The board hopes to have the revised recommendations by early December.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Pasco board considers priorities as school maintenance projects go unfunded 10/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2009 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After 17 years, Pasco-Hernando State College attorney steps away


    The longtime attorney for Pasco-Hernando State College has resigned for what he says are "purely personal reasons."

    Steve Schroeder, the general council for Pasco-Hernando State College, resigned last week. His last day will be Sept. 8.
  2. Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car


    SAN FRANCISCO — As new employees were brought into Apple's secret effort to create a self-driving car a few years ago, managers told them that they were working on the company's next big thing: A product that would take on Detroit and disrupt the automobile industry.

     In this Monday, April 10, 2017 file photo, Luminar CEO Austin Russell monitors a 3D lidar map on a demonstration drive in San Francisco. Russell, now 22, was barely old enough to drive when he set out to create a safer navigation system for robot-controlled cars. His ambitions are about to be tested five years after he co-founded Luminar Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup trying to steer the rapidly expanding self-driving car industry in a new direction. Apple says it will scale back its amitions to build a self-driving car.  [AP Photo/Ben Margot]
  3. Studies: Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes


    WASHINGTON — Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday.

    A side mirror warning signal is shown in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md., in 2012. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. [Associated Press]
  4. Pet Vet: Why a cat's color can make it more susceptible to skin cancer


    Snowball is a fluffy female cat 10 years of age. Can you guess what color she might be? I ask the question because it is relevant to what might be causing her problem.

    White fluffy cat  [Dreamstime | TNS]
  5. Photo of the Day for August 23, 2017 - The Guardian of the Sun

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Yuliya Gallimore of St, Petersburg, FL. She calls it "The Guardian of the Sun."