The Pasco School Board approved its $1.15 billion budget for 2009-10 on Tuesday night with barely a ripple of concern.
When it came to its $85 million capital projects plan for 2009-10, though, the board did not hold back its anger.
At first, no one would even make a motion to approve it. Board members had concerns over the inclusion of $10 million for a new administration building against their repeated opposition.
They also blasted the administration for submitting the entire five-year construction plan just two days before the board's final public hearing before sending the budget to the state.
"Can we table this and bring it back?" board member Kathryn Starkey asked at one point in the lengthy conversation. "I mean, this is a mess. I am not comfortable voting on this."
Board attorney Dennis Alfonso advised the board that it was approving a bottom-line figure only, and that it had to be to the state on time.
But statute is clear, he said, that the board can amend the budget at any time.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino recommended that the board have a work session in October at which point it could suggest any changes to the list of projects that it wants.
"This is what we are suggesting," Fiorentino said. "The board may or may not agree with parts or all of it."
Board members made clear they did not.
"I totally agree with the logic ... to not build a new (administration) building when we can't pay our teachers their step increases," said board member Cathi Martin, echoing the sentiments of members of the public who had spoken. "I can't in good conscience vote for that."
Board member Joanne Hurley said the project violated the district's pledge to the community to focus on school needs made during the 2004 Penny for Pasco sales tax campaign.
"I certainly do not want Penny for Pasco money to go toward a new administration building," Hurley said. "We said promises made, promises kept. This is not a promise kept."
She said the board should look at putting the money toward some of the unfunded new school projects on the five-year work plan before building more office space.
That was the message board members sent throughout the summer, she said, and it should have been heard.
Vice chairman Allen Altman joined the criticism, saying the administration had not followed appropriate guidelines or procedures in setting the budget.
He, like the others, reluctantly voted to approve the plan.
"When we approve the budget we approve the dollar amount," Altman said. "We can come back and move these monies into the appropriate places."
The board, which had questions about several other project priorities as well, expected to move quite a bit.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook blog at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.
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IT'S HIGH FIVE (WELL, ACTUALLY FOUR) FOR FIVAY HIGH
The school known as EEE finally has a real name: Fivay High School.
The Pasco County School Board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to name the new high school at State Road 52 and Chicago Avenue after the sawmill and railroad town of Fivay.
The dissenting vote came from board member Kathryn Starkey, who preferred Bear Creek.
Budget by the numbers
Total budget: $1.15 billion
Local tax rate: $7.34 per $1,000 of assessed value
General fund decrease: 6.12 percent
Federal stabilization money: $22.2 million