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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

School budget options weighed

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:20 PM

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Cost savings in transportation, along with a $500,000 grant and reducing the ending fund balance, might be enough to plug a more than $2.5 million budget shortfall — giving school board members alternatives to consider rather than previous options of cutting sports programs or freezing employee pay.

However, that's reliant on a rosier budget scenario than what school district officials project.

During Tuesday's afternoon workshop, school board members revisited discussions of the 2012-13 budget — focusing primarily on the general fund.

Desiree Henegar, chief financial officer for the district, revealed that overall, there would be an expected $736,289 increase in expenditures. There would have been a more than $5.4 million increase, but school and department administrators cut more than $4.6 million from the proposed budget.

In all, she said school board members were facing a $2,584,542 budget deficit and again presented a list of cost saving/budget-cutting options worth more than $5 million, which include cutting middle school and junior varsity sports, increasing athletic fees, and suspending pay increases for union and nonunion employees while also cutting supplemental pay for educators.

However, she revealed that Douglas Compton, the recently hired director of transportation, found cost savings worth between $740,000 and roughly $1.295 million by reducing 20-35 bus routes. Those, coupled with a $500,000 grant and the budget option of reducing the end-of-year fund balance by 1 percent, could result in a budget savings of more than $2.6 million.

Even so, school board member James Yant said lowering the end-of-year budget balance would put the district on the state's watch list and pointed out that the budget savings were also reliant on some variables — such as the district collecting 96 percent of property taxes and other funding coming through.

"There are too many positive assumptions for us to look at this the way we're looking at it," Yant said.

Board members have been mum on which cost-saving options they prefer, after Vice Chairman Matt Foreman recommended they not do so for fear of impacting talks between the teachers' union and district.

According to a summary of the 2012-13 budget, the Hernando County School District is expected to receive a $5.31 million increase in funding for next year with per-student funding increasing by $194.73 — to $6,193 from $5,998 per student.

The general fund budget is also expected to increase by $2.83 million from last year, to $162.49 million.

Homeowners can expect to see a slight increase in the required local tax rate set by the state to 5.32 next year from 5.26 during the 2011-12 school year — bringing the total levy to 7.57.

That means a homeowner with a $125,000 home and a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $757 — $6.30 more than last year. (352) 544-5271

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