Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Superintendent warns of low reserves in tentative Hernando school budget

BROOKSVILLE — The tentative 2012-13 budget for the Hernando County school system would dip deeply into the district's reserves. Deeply enough, superintendent Bryan Blavatt warned School Board members Tuesday, that for the second consecutive year the district would be placed on a state watch list.

That's a scary prospect, Blavatt said during the board's first public hearing on the budget.

"If we have a crisis … we can't meet one payroll with what we have right now," he said. "It could be terrible."

The budget has the district's reserve dropping down to $2.95 million, roughly 2.06 percent of the estimated general fund revenues.

Districts that let their reserve fund fall below 3 percent are placed on the state watch list. If a district falls below 2 percent, the state has the right to come in and start telling it how to make cuts, Blavatt said.

"It's no good to be below 2 percent," he said.

The amount in reserves could decrease more before the final budget is approved in September. The tentative budget is based on a 96 percent tax collection rate. Hernando is several percentage points below that rate this year, meaning the district will likely not bring in as much money.

"With all of that in consideration, if the wind blows and blows the roof off one of our schools, we're in crisis," he said. "That's how close we are to crisis."

The School Board approved the tentative budget 3-2, a surprisingly close margin that brought chills to chief financial officer Desiree Henegar. School Board member John Sweeney, who did not return calls Wednesday from the Times, and board Vice Chairman Matt Foreman vote against the budget.

"How am I supposed to vote for a budget that has minimal reserves?" Foreman asked Henegar before the vote. It "contemplates an increase of roughly $9 million in salaries at a time when we're having to cut services to students."

He then asked of the 7 percent increase in salaries and benefits: "What's the justification?"

And the flood gates opened.

Blavatt used it as an opportunity to paint a picture of the district's unions demanding money in a time of budget cuts and low budget reserves.

Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Joe Vitalo responded and said that the district builds a significant safety net. His evidence? The district ended last year with a $16 million surplus.

"You have reserves within your line items," he told the School Board during the budget hearing.

Blavatt said that money was hard earned and represented substantial cuts by the district.

Vitalo also took issue with the portrayal that union employees were getting a $9 million raise.

"We're not getting a 7 percent raise," he said. "We're not getting that."

"I know it's easy to come back and start pointing the finger. But please, don't point it at us. We're not the big, bad wolf in here."

To that, Blavatt responded: "There's a lot of folks around you, Joe, that aren't getting anything. People without jobs."

While the school district has dipped below the 3 percent reserve threshold, it eliminated a roughly $2.6 million budget shortfall without some of the more drastic cuts that had been floated.

One proposal, for example, had been to suspend automatic seniority raises, which could have saved roughly $2 million, according to the district.

Still, the district has made significant cuts.

Each school and the district office cut 10 percent last year and were asked to cut another 10 percent for 2012-13, a move that some principals said has cut to the bone. Student allocations, the amount the district gives to schools for each student, have also gone down. Teachers and parents have been forced to pick up the slack.

Danny Valentine can be reached at or (352) 848-1432.

. Fast facts

School Board highlights

• The Hernando School Board on Tuesday evening approved, by a 5-0 vote, the proposed millage rate of 7.545 for 2012-13. That means someone with $125,000 home and a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $754.40 in property taxes to the district, a slight decrease from last year.

• The School Board also approved the tentative 2012-13 budget by a 3-2 margin. Board members Matt Foreman and John Sweeney voted against the budget.

• The final public hearing on the budget will be 6 p.m. Sept. 18 in the School Board offices at 919 N Broad St., Brooksville.

Superintendent warns of low reserves in tentative Hernando school budget 08/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 7:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs and Bucks: HBO's Hard Knocks series boosts local businesses


    TAMPA — Men can enjoy yoga, including the most athletic ones. That is the message that the co-founder of Camp Tampa, a fitness studio located in South Tampa, wants to push after a few Tampa Bay Buccaneers players were shown practicing on HBO's television series Hard Knocks.

    Longtime hairstylist, Katie Ellwood styles Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander's hair last week at New Identities Hair Studio of Tampa Palms. The camera crew follows Kwon Alexander and other Bucs players during the team's training camp for the HBO show "Hard Knocks," a documentary television series about the ups and downs of an NFL training camp. [Courtesy of New Identities Hair Studio]
  2. Old Time Pottery adds store in Largo


    LARGO — A home decor and furniture store opened Thursday at 1111 Missouri Ave. N, according to a news release from the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. This is Old Time Pottery's fourth location in the Tampa Bay area, joining stores in Kenneth City, New Port Richey and Brandon. The company, which has 41 …

  3. Four candidates qualify to to run for Seminole City Council


    SEMINOLE — Four candidates have qualified for two open seats on the City Council.

    Seminole City Council member Bob Matthews.
  4. On move-in day at USF, 850 students call brand-new Village dorms home


    TAMPA — As thousands of University of South Florida students flock to campus for the fall semester, 850 of them have lucked out with rooms in brand-new residence halls.

    A view of an open plaza leading to "The Hub," a student dining hall in the Village, the new $134 million student housing complex set to open in phases at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
  5. Howard Altman: Former South Korean commando leader liked Trump's 'fire and fury'


    President Donald Trump kicked off a firestorm over his statement that a missile attack from North Korea would "be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

    Former South Korean commando leader In-Bum Chun, shown here during a ceremony at  Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa, said President Trump used the right tone when he threatened North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with "fire and fury." [ JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times, 2015]