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District reveals school-level cuts

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:35 PM

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More than $4.1 million in cost-cutting at the school level by principals has helped the district avoid a much larger budget shortfall for next year.

However, one union official wonders at what cost, as elective positions for the arts were put on the chopping block along with other staffing changes.

According to a list of school cuts from the district office, most all principals went above and beyond the target cuts — with total school savings $836,243 above the $3.3 million target goal.

Central High School cut the most — $506,940, when the target was $208,000 — with West Hernando Middle School cutting the second highest amount — $364,974, when the target was $133,000.

Chocachatti, Moton and Pine Grove elementary schools along with Challenger K-8 schools didn't meet their target goals — in some cases by roughly little more than $2,000 or by more than $27,000.

Some of the cuts were made by reducing secretary or custodial work days, not filling positions or by hiring lower paid employees to replace those who are retiring.

However, Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, said others were due to eliminating classroom and elective teacher positions.

Elementary schools took the largest cut, Vitalo said, with about 25 educator positions cut — some of which were previously being filled by long term substitutes.

"What's really bothering me is we're starting to see those cuts in the specials, or the arts," Vitalo said. "Those are the music and art classes. But now we're seeing those in the elementary level elective classes being cut and that's because we're focusing on teaching for the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test).

"So when people say we're trying to teach well-rounded individuals, the fact is we're not. We're teaching for the test."

School Board Member Dianne Bonfield, who had requested a list of the school-level cuts, said she hasn't had a chance to look at them in light of dealing with a family medical emergency.

Last year she scrutinized the school-level list of cuts after Superintendent Bryan Blavatt directed principals to shave 10 percent from their budget. Bonfield said she would do so again.

"I'll certainly do my homework before we start discussing these," Bonfield said.

During budget talks earlier this month, Desiree Henegar, chief financial officer for the district, revealed that the district faced a $2,584,542 budget deficit and would have faced a much higher one without the school-level cuts.

The expenditure increase in the General Fund would have been more than $5.4 million had it not been for the school-level cuts.

Cost-saving options to plug the current budget deficit include mainstreaming bus routes, reducing the end-of-year fund balance by 1 percent, cutting sports programs and freezing employee pay. (352) 544-5271

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