Hillsborough School Superintendent Walter Sickles unveiled nearly $30-million in possible cuts to school programs Tuesday, an incomplete blueprint school administrators may use to trim costs if faced with a shortfall in state financing.
Sickles said he wasn't sure exactly how school employees would be affected by cuts, a prospect the county faces if Gov. Lawton Chiles signs the "reality budget" approved by the state Legislature earlier this year.
Substitute teachers and temporary workers likely would be hit hardest, Sickles said. The county employs between 600 and 700 temporary workers.
Many such employees were hired to fill positions formerly held by permanent workers as a cost-cutting measure in the wake of previous budget cuts.
"A lot of those people who are temporaries or substitutes will not be working next year" if the proposed cuts materialize, Sickles said. He said several hundred such workers could lose their jobs.
It is unlikely that permanent workers would be laid off as a result of the cuts, Sickles said.
While Sickles said Hillsborough schools would lose $56-million in state aid under the "reality budget," he included $22-million in cuts from last year's budget.
If the "reality budget" is approved by Gov. Lawton Chiles, county schools would receive $34-million less than last year.
Administrators want the state to restore the $22-million in the upcoming budget to repair the damage done by last year's cuts, Sickles said.
In the last two years, the county has been forced to eliminate 81 teaching positions, 90 custodial positions and about 30 administrative positions, administrators said Tuesday.
Sickles' announcement, given at a Tuesday morning press conference, came as school officials prepared to hold forums at Hillsborough schools to inform parents of the possible cuts. "We want parents to hear how the state of Florida funds its schools," he said.
The largest cut administrators are considering would come from the elimination of all teacher aides. That cut would save $14-million.
Administrators also are looking at slicing the school day from seven periods to six, a savings of $7.3-million; increasing the size of each class by one student, a savings of $3-million; and eliminating half or all kindergarten aides, a savings of $2.5-million, Sickles said.
A committee that includes teachers, administrators and parents has been looking for ways to pare the school budget. The possible cuts detailed by Sickles on Tuesday are being considered by the committee, which is expected to make formal recommendations to the School Board in several weeks.
The Legislature will convene in a special session in June to consider the state's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Sickles urged parents to write legislators and fight any cuts in the education budget.
"We've kept the wolf away from the instructional door for the last three years," Sickles said, "but we're at the point where we can't do that anymore."