110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted May 4, 2012 - 8:27:44am
As many as 250 teachers’ jobs may be on the chopping block, as the Volusia County School Board seeks to close a $19 million budget deficit.
Assistant Superintendent for Finance Robert Moll said he doesn’t know exactly how many jobs may be at risk.
“That’s a moving target,” Moll said. “By June, we’ll have this balanced.”
Moll spoke April 24, after the School Board concluded a workshop on its 2012-13 budget.
This is the sixth consecutive year of budget-cutting for Volusia County Schools. Since the recession began during the 2006-07 fiscal year, the local school system has sustained more than $100 million in funding losses. School Board Chairman Al Williams blames Florida lawmakers.
The School District will receive about $384 million for its 2012-13 operating budget, thanks to legislative action. That sum is about $10 million more than the school system received for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Volusia County Schools’ total current budget is about $805.4 million, including capital outlays, debt service and special funds for federal programs.
As in years past, Williams and others say that is simply not enough to provide high-quality education.
“It’s bad. I think we’re going to be about $8 million to $10 million short,” Williams said. “We’re down to the bone marrow now. We’re going to have to tighten up now.”
To keep pace with decreases in available dollars, the Volusia School District has taken several measures to cut spending while sparing teachers’ jobs. Over the past five years, the School District has eliminated more than 1,500 support and administrative positions, mostly by attrition.
Attrition refers to slimming down payrolls by retirements, resignations and reassignments, and not replacing employees who leave.
The same cost-cutting exercise is in store again for the weeks ahead, Moll said, as he and his colleagues and board members begin “looking at personnel reductions in all departments.”
“This is the fifth year we’ve been doing this,” School Board Member Candace Lankford said.
What examples of austerity are evident?
“We have principals sharing schools to keep down administrative costs,” Lankford said. “We used to have three area superintendents, and now we have two.”
Another 3-percent cut in administrative jobs is in the offing.
In addition, a hiring freeze remains in effect. Only critical open positions, such as teachers, will be filled.
At the urging of Superintendent Margaret Smith, energy conservation in the schools has been stepped up, and extra-duty supplements for teachers have been reduced.
School employees work four-day weeks during school-vacation periods, and some school bus routes have been consolidated.
“We cannot be in the red,” Dr. Smith said.
Trying to save teachers from the budget ax will not be easy, Moll said, as he noted the Volusia School District has no more extra cash from the federal government to cover some of the salaries and benefits.
In the 2009-10 fiscal year, the district received $20.6 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus bill. In 2010-11, the federal government sent another $19.1 million.
Those dollars, which prevented the loss of some 600 teachers and support staff, have been exhausted.
“That’s gone,” Moll said.
Finding more places to pare spending without affecting classroom teachers and their mission will take two or three months, he said.
The School Board will likely have more budget meetings as the cutting continues.
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