Friday, February 23, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board seeks more cost-cutting ideas

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning has made it clear that he doesn't want to use nonrecurring funds to pay for ongoing expenses.

But earlier this week, Browning asked the Pasco School Board to consider doing so anyway. Otherwise, he said, eliminating a projected $26.4 million deficit and giving raises to noninstructional staff gets harder to do.

"I need to know what your opinion is on using the $4.3 million of nonrecurring," he told the board Tuesday. "If we don't do that, I will tell you we are going to have to dig deeper and make further cuts."

Board members already balked once at dipping into the fund balances, deciding instead to eliminate literacy coaches and media and technology specialists, and replace them with fewer super-specialists.

They didn't jump on the bandwagon Tuesday, either.

Rather, they asked Browning to provide alternatives that they could bring to their budget town hall meetings, which began Wednesday.

"I'd much rather hear from the community," board member Joanne Hurley said.

She noted that, in past years, people attending the town hall sessions accused the board of having made up its mind before coming.

"We need to hear what they are telling us," Hurley said.

Board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong, who will lead the first town hall meeting, said having a list to show the public helps make clear exactly where the district stands in its spending decisions. Often, she noted, the other options are much less palatable than using nonrecurring funds.

Browning said he did have some ideas for possible cuts, "all things that are not desirable." Those included:

• Eliminating some assistant principal positions

• Eliminating career specialist jobs, and

• Eliminating drivers education.

The other big item on the table is $3.5 million to increase the pay of noninstructional employees, those who were not included in the state budget's allocation for teacher raises.

Neither Browning nor the board wanted to cancel that plan. "If we are committed to giving raises to those folks ... the only way is nonrecurring and getting on our hands and knees and praying that next year's property values go up" and lawmakers better fund schools without strings attached, Browning said.

The board agreed to come back with a recommendation at its June 4 meeting.

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