Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tight Budget, but No Layoffs or School Program Cuts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tight Budget, but No Layoffs or School Program Cuts

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Stung by ongoing state revenue cuts and unsure how many more will follow, the Clay County school district is taking a conservative financial approach to 2008-09.

The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $258.8 million, about $200,000 higher than last year's version, including a $4 million cushion for anticipated state funding reductions in the coming year.

"It could be a very dismal year," said George Copeland, assistant superintendent for business affairs.

Copeland submitted the proposed 2008-09 budget at a School Board workshop on Thursday. At the same meeting, Mike Elliott, assistant superintendent for support services, submitted a proposed $71 million facilities plan for the next year, including $48 million that will go toward the $52 million OakLeaf High School.

Both administrators said their plans were balanced as required, but tight.

For the past year, educational funding has been uncertain because of Florida's struggling economy and resulting slowing sales tax revenues. The district's state revenue reduction for 2007-08 totaled about $15 million.

But Clay, unlike many other districts across the state, is likely facing no layoffs or major programming reductions that would impact the classroom, he said.

Due to years of conservative financial practices, spending cutbacks in the past school year and keeping up with state-mandated class-size reduction requirements and continuing growth, the district has so far avoided layoffs or major programming cuts. But due to the uncertain future, the district's administrative divisions and individual schools have been asked to withhold spending of 5 percent of their funding as they enter the new school year, Copeland said.

Whether the dismal picture will extend to property taxpayers remains to be seen. District officials do not yet know whether a tax rate increase will be warranted to pay the required local effort, the amount of revenue the state mandates county taxpayers contribute for education costs.

Copeland said he will have that information by today, when the School Board is scheduled to vote on advertising the proposed budget and tax rate. …

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