Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay School Leaders Think Ahead They're Planning for More Budget Cuts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay School Leaders Think Ahead They're Planning for More Budget Cuts

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

With no end in sight to a state revenue crunch that brought Clay County public schools a $3.5 million funding cut this year, Superintendent David Owens already has put his staff into a crisis mode for the 2002-03 school year.

Unless the economy improves soon, the school district will begin to plan next school year's budget as if it will get an even larger state funding cut than this year -- a cut of $6 million.

"We don't know how the economy is going to go, but we are hearing rumors out of Tallahassee," Owens said. "We have heard we will be funded [next year] at last year's level, or at the 1999-2000 level. There is going to be less money."

The superintendent's comments about the budget crisis came Wednesday at a School Board news conference about how the district will implement the $3.5 million state funding cut this year. That revenue loss is being made up by cutting 20 percent from each school's budget, freezing vacant positions and all but essential purchases, increasing some class sizes, reducing the number of summer school classes and eliminating teacher training, district travel and teacher recruitment bonuses.

Meanwhile, district officials will begin preparations for the 2002-03 budget, taking into consideration what they believe will be a $6 million state funding cut, Owen said.

"That is what we are going to plan for," he said. "We are not going to wait."

That kind of budget reduction, in addition to the continuing impact of this year's cuts, could mean a reduction in the number of music, art, physical education and technology programs in elementary schools next year and a reduction in administrative positions in the district office. Also, it likely means no salary increases for district personnel.

"That looks kind of dim for next year," Owens said.

For teachers, no pay raise next year would put them even further behind in the national teacher pay scale than they already are, said Constance Higginbotham, president of the Clay County Education Association, which represents the district's approximately 1,900 teachers. …

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