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Pinellas County School District's budget picture gets less gloomy

The Pinellas County School District's dire budget picture became $7 million rosier Wednesday, but it was unclear what impact that would have on the possibility that its 17,000 employees will be forced to take unpaid leave.

Superintendent Julie Janssen sent teachers union officials a summary of budget adjustments that improved the bottom line, including a $4.2 million transfer from the capital outlay fund to the general operating fund and a $2.5 million reduction in expenditures tied to workers' compensation claims.

"It makes the bargaining picture not as dark," Pinellas teachers union president Kim Black said.

But neither Black nor Janssen would say whether the changes made mandatory unpaid leave days, often referred to as furloughs, less likely.

"We don't know what their intentions are with that $7 million until we have conversations with them," Black said.

"At least we now have real numbers," Janssen said. "So we can go to the table … and have something to talk about."

No date has been set for the next bargaining session between the district and the union.

The School Board cut about $50 million from the budget in May. But the possibility of $7.7 million worth of unpaid leave days and several million dollars' worth of higher health insurance costs has remained under consideration.

In terms of impact, one district model shows it would take seven furlough days for 12-month administrators and three days for 10-month teachers to help reach $7.6 million.

Wednesday's announcement was reminiscent of similar news last year, when Janssen announced in late July that the budget was $8 million less bleak than expected.

A district proposal for unpaid leave days was then quickly withdrawn.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Pinellas County School District's budget picture gets less gloomy 08/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:32am]
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