The exact number of people laid off will depend upon attrition
By B.C. Manion
This week is expected to go down as one of the most difficult weeks in the history of Pasco County Public Schools.
Hundreds of employees are expected to find out on Thursday, May 19 that their positions are being cut as the school district seeks to address an anticipated $54.4 million shortfall.
The Pasco County School Board signaled its intention to eliminate 513 positions during a budget workshop last week. The formal vote was scheduled to happen on May 3.
The district has set aside May 19 for notifying specific employees who will be losing their jobs, said district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli.
District officials did not identify specific positions that will be trimmed at last week’s workshop because they need to follow the union contract in selecting which employees will be cut, and they want to inform affected employees personally instead of through the media.
Regardless of how the message is delivered, however, board members and Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said it’s an action they wish they could avoid.
The positions being cut include 458 at the school level, 35 at the district level and 20 in transportation, food service, custodial and before and after school programs.
It remains unclear exactly how many people will get their pink slips because some positions may be cut through attrition as employees retire or voluntarily leave the system.
The job cuts will save the district an estimated $27.8 million.
In addition, the district is proposing that every one of its employees take a pay reduction – in the form of furlough days.
The proposed furlough days and the timing of those days must be negotiated with United School Employees of Pasco.
Fiorentino has recommended four furlough days for employees with 12-month contracts and three furlough days for employees with shorter contracts. The furlough days would save the district about $5.9 million.
The district also plans to use $11.4 million in federal Edujobs funds and to use $10 million from its capital budget to pay for property insurance, to help plug the budget gap.
Fiorentino made it clear that services will be diminished.
“We don’t have any bench warmers on our team,” Fiorentino said. When the district cuts people, it reduces its abilities to provide services.
Joanne Hurley, chairwoman of the board, said the district didn’t want to eliminate programs, so it opted instead to reduce services.
Hurley said there’s no doubt that these cuts will affect students and staff.
At last week’s workshop, Cynthia Armstrong said: “I think we all felt like we were coming to a funeral today.”
Fiorentino and board members also warned that the layoffs and furlough days might not be enough to resolve budget issues.
If the shortfall turns out to be worse than expected, the board may need to take additional measures.
If the shortfall is $5 million more than expected, Fiorentino recommends that employees shell out $50 a month more for benefits; if the shortfall is $10 million more, they recommend employees pay an additional $100 a month.
All of the proposed cuts come on top of a new mandate that all state employees pay 3 percent a year into their pension.