This is a troubling math equation. The Pasco County School District doesn't have money to build an elementary school in four years, to adequately maintain existing school buildings nor to expedite the pace of technology upgrades at older schools. How then does it have money for a new building for administrators?
The correct answer came Tuesday afternoon from a Pasco School Board majority. The district doesn't have the money. At least not now while other, more imperative projects remain without financing.
Kudos to board members Allen Altman, Kathryn Starkey and Joanne Hurley for acing this exam.
Tuesday, board members learned the district plans to open an elementary school at Hicks Road in Hudson in August 2013. Just one little problem. There is no construction money for it in the long-range budget and the district doesn't anticipate help from the state since its capital outlay dollars are dwindling.
Likewise, the district's 85 schools and related facilities could use $18 million to finance 225 separate maintenance projects this year. Even $6 million would suffice to cover the most pressing repairs. Instead, the budget has just $3 million to cover 36 items ranging from four new roofs to new exterior paint at nine schools.
Even moving two portable buildings for added office space at the Land O'Lakes administrative campus has been nixed because of the anticipated cost of up to $30,000.
Yet amid this constrained capital budget Superintendent Heather Fiorentino's administrative staff parked $10 million in its five-year plan for a new administration building in Land O'Lakes. The board majority wisely straightened out these skewed priorities.
"There is never a good time to talk about a new administration building, but I can't imagine a worse time to talk about it than now,'' said Altman, the board's vice chairman.
He, Starkey and Hurley directed Fiorentino to increase the district's budget to maintain existing buildings and to complete a master plan for housing some administrative and ancillary services at district property on Old Pasco Road before deciding space needs at the Land O'Lakes headquarters.
Fiorentino noted the planning for the new administrative building predated her tenure in office. Still, she never did back away from the idea and offered to take board members on a tour of cramped offices. Regardless of the perceived space needs, this is an inopportune time to put the working environment of the adults in the central office staff ahead of the learning environment for the students around the county.