Pasco school budget wrangling begins
LAND O' LAKES - For the fifth consecutive year, the Pasco County School Board faces a multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall as it makes budget plans for the upcoming fiscal year. The board needs to cut spending by $25.6 million so it can approve a balanced budget for 2012-13. Board members will hold a series of town hall meetings next week to seek budget-slicing suggestions from the public, something they also did last year when the school district's shortfall was $55.4 million. Last year, the school board's cuts included eliminating about 500 jobs.Olga Swinson, the district's chief finance officer, told the school board Tuesday that each department's budget is being reviewed for potential savings, and "they can tell you we are going line by line." Meanwhile, the union that represents school employees is seeking more information about budget numbers. Lynne Webb, head of United School Employees of Pasco, said she has made repeated requests for information — specifically for payroll numbers through the end of February compared with payroll for the same period a year ago — but the district has not provided the figures. Some budget cuts would be subject to contract negotiations, and Webb said union officials won't consider any cuts until they can review the numbers from this year's budget. "We cooperate, but we don't capitulate," Webb said. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said the district is trying to answer the union's questions but that it would be too time-consuming to provide the kind of detail the union is seeking. The finance department also is short on staff right now, she said. "It would take hours and hours of staff time," Fiorentino said. Each school board member will host a town hall meeting on the budget next week. The members then will gather at 9:30 a.m. May 25 to discuss what they learned at those meetings. All town hall meetings begin at 6 p.m. The schedule is: Monday: Long Middle School cafeteria, 2025 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel; hosted by board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley; Tuesday: Hudson High School mini-theater, 14410 Cobra Way, Hudson; hosted by board member Steve Luikart; Wednesday: Trinity Oaks Elementary School cafeteria, 1827 Trinity Oaks Blvd., New Port Richey; hosted by board Vice Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong; Thursday: Centennial Middle School cafeteria, 38505 Centennial Road, Dade City; hosted by board member Allen Altman; Thursday: Chasco Elementary School cafeteria, 7906 Ridge Road, Port Richey; hosted by board member Alison Crumbley.
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