Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Education

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 [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

Comments
Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

Hernando could be next stop for PACE Center for Girls

BROOKSVILLE — The new year could bring about new beginnings for at-risk girls in Hernando County.Pending a vote by the School Board next month, PACE Center for Girls, an alternative education program for middle- and high-school students, could open a...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Published: 12/12/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

News stories about campus sexual assault often get the question, "Why do schools handle these cases, anyway?"Readers often wonder how universities got tasked with handling these convoluted cases in the first place. Where, they ask, do the police come...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/11/17