As things stand now, Pasco County Schools could be facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall for the 2017-18 budget year, and Superintendent Kurt Browning has begun laying the groundwork for potential cuts.
He briefed the Pasco County School Board during a May 16 budget workshop about what he’s been doing so far to gear up for what could become a tough budget year.
The final budget numbers won’t be known until Gov. Rick Scott acts on the budget adopted by the Florida Legislature. Scott has 15 days to sign the budget, veto it, or use his line-item veto authority. The 15-day time clock begins ticking once the budget lands on Scott’s desk.
Browning told school board members that he had met the previous week with all the district’s department directors and directed them to “prepare a 10 percent budget reduction exercise.”
The superintendent said he emphasized it was an exercise, but he added, “we’re going to look at each one of those proposed cuts that they recommend, and we will look at it accordingly and see what the impacts to the district are.”
On the same day, Browning had a conference call with secondary principals and two conference calls with the district’s elementary principals, to let them know they need to hold one instructional position open.
The district isn’t taking the position away from each school, but it is freezing it, Browning said.
The district estimates it would take 146 positions to plug an $8.7 million budget gap, Browning said.
Olga Swinson, the district’s chief finance officer, also noted that the charter school enrollment in Pasco County is projected to increase by about 977 full-time equivalent students, which is about a 25 percent increase over the previous year.
The district is also facing additional costs associated with opening Bexley Elementary and Cypress Creek Middle/High School, she said.
There also will be higher retirement costs, health insurance costs, increased costs for McKay Scholarships and higher costs in a number of other areas, according to Swinson.
Browning told board members that the district is considering a wide range of options to balance the budget.
The district is looking at extended school year funds, extended school day funds, furlough days, closing schools, class size requirements, dual enrollment, leadership supplements, athletics, athletic supplements and other options, Browning said.
“The bottom line is, nothing is off the table. Nothing’s off the table,” Browning said.
“The only editorial comment I will make is that, in a year when the state is not in economic crisis, we should not be in this economic crisis,” Browning said.
Published May 24, 2017