Despite its reputation, the Pinellas County School District is not as top-heavy in administration as it used to be — and looks less top-heavy than many other large districts in Florida, according to a new state report.
Pinellas spent 0.41 percent of its general fund on central administration in the 2009-10 school year, according to the figures from the Florida Department of Education. That puts it at No. 5 among the 12 biggest school districts on a least-to-most scale where the No. 1 rank is the most desirable.
Pasco, which spent 0.15 percent on central administration, was No. 1 among the biggest districts. Hillsborough, at 0.28 percent, was No. 3.
Hernando spent 0.36 percent on central administration.
The report also looked at costs for school-based administration, which includes principals and assistant principals and is a much greater expense for districts than district-level administration.
Pinellas spent 6.78 percent there, putting it at No. 4 among the 12 biggest districts, again on a least-to-most scale. Hillsborough spent 6.74 percent, making it No. 3, while Pasco spent 7.80, making it No. 10.
Hernando spent 6.96 percent on school-based administration.
The report comes as the Pinellas School District aims to cut $60 million from its budget after cutting $118 million over the past five years. The School Board and superintendent Julie Janssen have had to fend off persistent criticism that the district is marbled with more administrative "fat" than other big districts and hasn't done enough to cut costs in that area.
In 2009, two separate St. Petersburg Times analyses found that Pinellas was relatively top-heavy. The first, published in January 2009, found that Pinellas spent more on general administration than any other large district in Florida. The second, published in November 2009, found that despite a major effort to cut and reclassify costs, Pinellas still ranked either No. 2 or 3 among the 12 biggest districts, depending on how general administration costs were defined.
But district officials say they have continued to trim administrative costs since then. According to district figures released in February, the percentage spent on general administration has dropped from 0.76 in 2007-08 to 0.47 in 2008-09 to 0.42 in 2009-10.
Ron Matus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8873.