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Superintendent's plan shows how schools can live on $8.6M less

LAND O'LAKES — Less teacher training. Less paid travel. No new band and chorus uniforms. No spring football or JV baseball and softball. Fewer teachers in alternative graduation enhancement programs.

These are some of the cuts that Pasco County schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her staff are proposing to the School Board to slash $8.6-million from the district's general operating budget.

"This proposal includes some of the staff suggestions that were submitted for consideration and reflects the priorities set by the superintendent and the board," according to the superintendent's presentation, which was distributed to principals late Wednesday.

What it does not do is tackle the additional $10-million to $15-million that officials expect to see cut from their state revenue in early 2009, after lawmakers determine how to handle a $1.4-billion hit to tax revenues. Nor does it address how the district would cope if it must pay employees' contested annual pay raises, which total about $5.1-million.

The presentation simply notes that those combined cuts could have "possible implications for personnel" to the tune of shedding more than 600 jobs.

For now, the proposals, which do not include dollar amounts, focus on the immediate shortfall of $8.6-million. Fiorentino repeatedly has said she does not like to predict what the state will do, and she prefers to deal with the real numbers the district has.

Many of the savings proposals already have been announced, such as a total hiring freeze and the elimination of perfect attendance bonuses for bus drivers, something the United School Employees of Pasco has protested.

Other ideas, such as the cuts in travel and staff development, have been called for by teachers. And changes to the sports program, which have been rumored for weeks, are likely to face strong opposition. The district's longest tenured football coach said he would quit coaching rather than take a pay cut.

School Board members, who could not be reached Wednesday for comment, are scheduled to review the proposals during a workshop at 4 p.m. Tuesday. They demanded a plan in advance of that meeting and said they hoped to have some firm direction for employees quickly.

Staff writer Izzy Gould contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Superintendent's plan shows how schools can live on $8.6M less 12/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2008 2:30pm]
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