110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 15, 2013 - 6:44:46am
Along with figuring out how to handle a projected $25 million deficit in its budget, Volusia County Schools now must also find money to pay a fine for failure to meet state class-size requirements.
Volusia County is among Florida’s Top 10 recalcitrant school districts, and has been assessed by the Florida Department of Education with one of the highest fines in the state: $2.8 million.
If the Volusia County School Board approves a compliance plan at its Tuesday, Jan. 15, meeting, if a Feb. 1 deadline is met for getting the plan to the state, and if the state approves the plan, Volusia County’s fine may be reduced to $700,000.
The state said more than 18 percent of the Volusia school district’s core academic classes exceeded the allowable size when a census was conducted in the fall of 2012. The fines are set according to the number of students over the limit.
In addition to paying the fine, Volusia County Schools will have to bear the cost of the extra teachers needed to create smaller classes.
“It is our intent to do our best to be in compliance with the class size requirement, although it will be difficult due to having the necessary funding to hire an adequate number of teachers,” Volusia County Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith wrote in an email to The Beacon.
Volusia County school officials’ job would have been easier if voters had not turned down a proposed property-tax increase for schools.
Voters were asked for another mill of property taxes, or another $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. The new tax would have generated $26 million in revenue the first year, enough to offset a decline in state revenues without laying off teachers. The measure failed Nov. 6 by 944 votes out of 206,618 ballots cast.
As a result, and facing a $25 million budget deficit, the School Board cut 247 teaching jobs to balance this year’s budget, possibly contributing to the failure to meet class-size requirements.
Statewide, school districts are being hit with a total of almost $27 million in fines. The Duval, Dade and Broward school districts, all much larger than Volusia County’s, will pay higher fines than Volusia. Duval was assessed $7.4 million, the largest class-size fine in the state.
Florida’s Top 10
The Top 10 school districts failing to meet class-size requirements, based on the percentage of classes not meeting the caps, are:
1. Hamilton County — 27.41 percent
2. Levy — 25.97 percent
3. Jefferson — 22.8 percent
4. Lafayette — 22.70 percent
5. Gilchrist — 20.78 percent
6. Duval — 19.51 percent
7. Alachua — 18.99 percent
8. Volusia — 18.42 percent
9. Marion — 17.06 percent
10. Manatee — 12.5 percent
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