St. Lucie County schools to hold community forum to discuss the budget

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Faced with a $15 million shortfall, school officials have proposed a menu of budget cut options that include closing two schools, consolidating magnet school programs and eliminating school librarians.

Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the proposals during a town hall meeting 6 p.m. Thursday in Fort Pierce Central High's auditorium.

The St. Lucie County School Board will not take any action Thursday but Chairwoman Debbie Hawley said she encourages parents, teachers and community members to provide input and offer solutions.

"Everything on that cut list is important and to save one at the expense of another is not what we're looking for," Hawley said. "We're looking for outside the box suggestions that perhaps our staff hasn't thought of."

School district officials have developed a menu of budget cut options and cost savings totaling approximately $27.9 million.

At the beginning of Thursday's town hall meeting, Schools Superintendent Michael Lannon said he will provide a brief overview to explain how the district got in this situation and then the rest of the time will be the public's chance to speak.

"This is not a debate. This is for a variety of individuals in the community to be able to speak to the board and express their wishes and desires," Lannon said. "Hopefully many of the people who come to speak will come with ‘have you thought of' or have a different slant to something that creates some thinking about something in a different way."

Lannon said he expects Thursday's event to be similar to one held in 2009, the last time the district faced making big cuts.

By state law, the School Board has to have a balanced budget for the 2013-2014 school year in place by July 1.

And while the board has time to make some decisions, Lannon said there are others that need to be dealt with sooner, such as student assignment. The district postponed its open enrollment process until a decision has been made on the student assignment proposals.

"Certain things have to occur now," Lannon said Tuesday. "The student assignment process needs to get started. We can run it in late March and April and into May. We can do that but the sooner that parents know where their kids are going to be assigned, the sooner master schedules are built."

When the board votes on possible budget cuts could depend on what ideas come forward at the town hall meeting.

"This is a solution-focused forum for people to offer possible solutions for us to investigate," Hawley said. "I want them to feel like they're partners in this and not that this is a mandate coming from the district office. This impacts the entire community."

Here is a full list of the possible budget cuts, which St. Lucie County school officials call a "Menu of Proposed Strategies to Reduce District Expenditures for 2013/2014." While the menu totals $27.9 million, the School Board needs to make $15 million in cuts to have a balanced budget.


Cuts to athletics: $1 million

Close Garden City Early Learning Academy and Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts K-8: $1,614,834

Transition to block schedule at four middle schools: $1 million

Student assignment changes: $1 million

PERSONNEL — $7,200,000

Eliminate media specialists/clerks in all libraries: $3 million

Reduce school resource teachers (physical education, music, art, technology): $1.3 million

Reduce student services (social workers/psychology services): $1.4 million

Reduce substitute teachers: $1.5 million

EMPLOYEES — $8,850,000

Cut all employee salaries by 1 percent: $1.8 million

Two-day furlough for all administrators, including principals and assistant principals: $100,000

Eliminate one paid holiday for all employees: $1 million

Reduce supplements: $250,000

Implementation of a restructured employee health insurance program: $4.7 million

Four-day workweek for district maintenance staff: $1 million

OTHER — $2,370,000

Privatize custodial services: $2 million

Eliminate ConnectED District Call System: $120,000

Reduce outside legal services: $250,000

ONE-TIME SAVINGS FOR 2013-14 ONLY — $6,500,000

Reallocation of textbook funds: $2.1 million

Reallocation of fuel tax: $1.4 million

Lowering the percent held in reserves: $3 million



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