TAMPA, Fla. - The Hillsborough County School Board is finalizing its plan to address its budget crisis and avoid a state takeover. The board held a special meeting this morning and voted to send their plan to the Florida Department of Education for approval.
The meeting comes one day after Superintendent Addison Davis announced the district had received $101-million in federal COVID relief money.
The state released those funds to the school system over the weekend and the money is already being used to increase the district's reserve fund, which is necessary to avoid a state takeover.
That cash is a short-term fix, though. Although the district is in line to receive hundreds of millions in additional COVID relief money, district leaders don't expect it to last beyond next year.
This financial crisis has been building for about a decade. Since last fall, 1,500 positions have been cut, mostly through attrition and retirement, and about 100 teachers have been laid off. Job transfers and reduced expenditures also played a part in the district’s plan to get back on track.
So the common theme to the discussion this morning was figuring out a way to avoid future budget crises.
First, the district passed its plan to plug its budget gap. That plan needs to get to education commissioner Richard Corcoran by tomorrow for his approval to avoid a state financial takeover.
The district also took another step, voting to establish a financial advisory committee that will be made up of members of the community.
The school board wants this committee to look into potential revenue streams and cost-cutting measures and then come back to the board and superintendent with suggestions.
"Even with the federal relief dollars, the pressure is on us. The pressure on us to ensure that we find new revenue sources moving forward and that we continue with the cost controls," deputy superintendent Dr. Michael Kemp insisted. "It's not going to be -- this is not a one-and-done deal. We're not OK. We have to continue to work on our strategies."
Superintendent Davis has been consistent about increasing revenue. He says the state needs to increase funding to all districts; Florida is near the bottom nationally.
Davis also believes the district has to find a way to market itself to families moving to Tampa so that those parents will choose to send their kids to public schools instead of private and charter schools.
The financial advisory committee is still in its beginning phases, but it sounds like it will be a 12-member committee, made of up community members, teachers and staff.