LAND O'LAKES — Looking for the least painful way to cut millions of dollars, the Pasco School Board is backing off the idea of having teachers instruct six periods a day instead of five.
Instead, the board is moving forward with a mix of other cuts, including furloughs, personnel reductions and requiring employees to contribute to their health insurance costs.
"I do think if we can do anything else at all other than going with six out of six (teaching periods a day), I would like to try it," board chairman Allen Altman told the administration during a budget discussion Tuesday.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her team had suggested having middle and high school teachers teach all six periods daily, saving $12 million by reducing the number of teachers needed. Teachers would have lost their planning period, but the district proposed incorporating some half-days into the school year for planning.
The idea isn't off the table, and it might return for 2011-12.
But for now, the board asked the administration to move ahead with a budget plan that uses other options. They include:
• Use capital funds to pay for insurance premiums, $4-million
• Furlough, $2.1-million
• Reallocate instructional assignments to reduce one position per school, $4.3-million
• Employees pay $30 per month for insurance, $3-million
• Eliminate dental insurance, $900,000
• Eliminate drivers education, $430,000
• Savings from early retirement program, $4-million
• Cut busing to International Baccalaureate programs, $90,000
• Reduce two district administrative positions, $100,000
• Use instructional materials funds, $1.5-million
The board did not take a position on whether to impose a property tax increase of 0.25 mills, which would generate about $6-million. Members asked staff to draw up budgets with and without the money. They also asked for more information about savings that would come if voters support changes to the class size amendment in November.
"To dismantle student programs to lay off employees based on an October count that in November may change, and then to have to come back again, just seems to me to be detrimental to the process. It's demoralizing to our employees," Altman said. "I'd like us to look at some alternatives."
The board will continue its budget discussions next week.