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Pasco School Board wants to prepare for budget cuts

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco School Board members are getting jittery about the state's troubled budget, and what it will mean for education here.

Sure, the numbers in Tallahassee aren't final yet.

But "we could at least start working toward prioritizing and have some ideas," board member Allen Altman said Tuesday.

"I just don't want us to wait until the budget is final and then having to scramble to do stuff," Altman told his colleagues during a board meeting. "I know other districts are doing it and doing the research, and I think we ought to be doing that."

Other districts have begun preparing lists of cuts, and in some instances, they have started implementing those. Lee County, for instance, has already laid off some employees, and Volusia County has announced the closure of seven schools.

Manatee County has proposed cutting all teacher pay by 5 percent.

Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino has been reluctant to put forth concrete ideas, saying she does not want to send the wrong message or use the incorrect numbers. Getting accurate information to the staff and the public is key to winning buy-in to the eventual cuts that may come, she said.

And Fiorentino made clear that her administration is working on a set of recommendations that aim to protect the classroom and employee jobs as much as possible.

She expected the district to see a funding reduction of about $20-million below its final budget for the current year. And that would be not from the budget at the start of the year, but rather from the amount after $10-million in cuts.

If revenue estimates from the state continue to decrease, Fiorentino added, the scenario could worsen.

"We have not hit bottom yet," she said. "We will be losing money."

Board chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she has been lobbying lawmakers all session, trying to protect programs and funding where possible. Frank Roder, vice president of the United School Employees of Pasco, said the union has sent four employees to Tallahassee weekly to lobby, too.

Lawmakers are trying to hash out the education budget this week. Key budget leaders have indicated they plan to cut per-student funding by nearly $106, as well as reduce funding for several other areas.

In other business, the Pasco School Board:

• Approved the refinancing of all its outstanding certificates of participation bonds, 1996 series.

• Agreed to contracts to purchase 36 acres for Elementary O on Hicks Road in Hudson, for $35,000 per acre, and for 1.08 acres adjacent to High School EEE in Hudson, for $295,000.

• Gave initial approval to the revised student code of conduct handbooks for 2008-09.

• Approved the superintendent's recommendations for all administrative reappointments. The positions of assistant superintendent for curriculum and director of prekindergarten services will be filled in the future.

Pasco School Board wants to prepare for budget cuts 04/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 8:18pm]
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