Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Schools Will Get Less State Money Than Thought; Funds Won't Eliminate Need for Cuts to Build Up Dwindling Reserves

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Schools Will Get Less State Money Than Thought; Funds Won't Eliminate Need for Cuts to Build Up Dwindling Reserves

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

FLEMING ISLAND | The Clay County school district will get less state money than originally anticipated for the 2014-15 school year.

The money it does receive, district administrators say, won't be enough to eliminate the need for nearly $1 million in budget cuts to build up the school system's dwindling reserve fund.

Assistant Superintendent George Copeland gave the School Board the news Tuesday night during a contentious meeting marked by verbal brawls between board members about whether Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. or Chairwoman Carol Studdard is the final authority setting the agenda for the panel's meetings.

District administrators are hammering out the framework for the school system's new budget.

Copeland said the district is slated to receive about $238 million in state full-time equivalency money, which is rooted in student enrollment. That is an increase of about $3.2 million from 2013-14, but it's not as much as expected, Copeland said.

However, all but $94,574 of that money will be needed for district expenditures including the employee retirement rate increase, district personnel allocations and contract obligations for district support employees.

"This doesn't give us much to apply to the [reserve] fund balance," Copeland said.

The board previously set a goal of raising the reserve fund to 2.5 percent of the general fund by the end of the 2014-15 school year. District reserves now total about $5.1 million or 2.1 percent of the general fund.

Florida requires school districts to have at least 3 percent of the general fund in reserve. Last year when Clay dropped below the 3 percent level, administrators had to write to the Florida Department of Education outlining how the district would increase its reserves. A school system's reserve fund typically is viewed as an indicator of the overall fiscal health.

To reach the 2.5 percent reserve fund goal, the school district must cut about $968,000 from its budget. By comparison, the district would have to cut about $2.2 million if it wanted to make the 3 percent level.

On another issue, the agenda clash was the latest public dispute over the authority of the superintendent and board members. …

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