Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas School Board changes bell times, considers tough cuts for 2010-11

LARGO — The Pinellas County School Board Tuesday reluctantly approved new school start times while the superintendent proposed furloughs and higher employee health insurance costs — all efforts to save money and close a pressing budget gap.

In her most expansive list of proposed budget cuts yet, Pinellas school superintendent Julie Janssen laid out a plan to cut at least $25.7 million in 2010-11, getting exceptionally close to the $26 million chop the district needs.

"We're giving you everything," Janssen told board members during an afternoon workshop, where board members were not allowed to vote.

Earlier in the day, however, the board did give 6-1 approval for a new school bell schedule, which is expected to save $2.25 million by eliminating 50 bus routes.

Board members at first groused over the plan, which puts middle school kids in class 10 minutes earlier, while delaying start times for some 28 elementary schools until 9:20 a.m.

High schools will continue to open at 7:05 a.m., an early hour that has been a bone of contention for plenty of parents and educators.

When it came time to cast a vote, board Chairwoman Janet Clark offered the lone dissent.

Her chief concern besides parental inconvenience, she said, were that the district's youngest students would be in school later in the day: "We're putting them in a high-stress environment and I don't know that they're going to be at their best at that time in the afternoon."

The discussion was just one in a marathon day of hard topics, most of which revolved around finding a way to address an economic shortfall that threatens to only get worse in 2011-12.

All of the suggestions are still under discussion and most have yet to be negotiated with the unions. Among them:

Furloughs: All of the district's 11,538 employees could be placed on mandatory unpaid leave for anywhere from one day to eight days, depending on their jobs.

Principals and administrators who work 12 months could be asked to stay away from work for eight days out of the year.

Assistant principals could be out for three or four days, depending on where they work.

Teachers who work 10 months of the year could get two furlough days. And support personnel who work 10 months to 11.5 months per year could lose one day. Savings: $5.4 million.

Staff reductions: Shorten employee contracts for new hires and consider offering "provisional" contracts, good for only a short period of time at a lower-than-usual pay rate. Also, freeze or delay hiring for vacated positions. Savings: $5 million.

Health insurance: Require employees to contribute about 20 percent of their premiums and up co-pays by $5. Currently, the district pays about 82 percent and the employee pays 18 percent. Savings: $2.3 million.

Overtime: Limit overtime and additional duty for guidance counselors and other employees. Savings: $500,000.

BlackBerrys: No more district-paid BlackBerrys. Employees would have to pay for their own. Savings: $200,000.

In addition to those and other cuts, Janssen also shared another $7.5 million to $15 million in possible slashes on top of that as food for thought.

One, which board members seemed to like, was an early retirement option targeted to 600 eligible employees who have more than 25 years experience and are at least age 60. These are people who are too young to take advantage of the state's early retirement plan, which kicks in at 62.

Potential savings, should 100 people participate: $1.9 million to $2.3 million.

Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the Pinellas teachers union, said the union will work its hardest to keep pay and benefits intact.

While Janssen is standing by a small pay raise promised the district's teachers last year, Ogletree said he worries furloughs may eat away at that increase for some employees.

"We never want to give up something we fought long and hard to gain," he said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or [email protected]

Pinellas School Board changes bell times, considers tough cuts for 2010-11 06/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy


    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.