TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough County school district appears to have avoided an immediate budget crisis, but financial problems still exist for the school system.
The state recently released $101 million in federally-approved COVID relief funds to the county. That money will now be used to pay for everything from laptop computers that were purchased to help students with online learning, to cleaning supplies that were purchased at the start of the pandemic.
The money helps the county avoid falling into receivership and being taken over by the state. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threatened state action last month after a reserve account, mandated by state law, came up short of the state requirement.
State law requires school districts to keep a reserve fund of non-allocated money in case of emergency or disaster. The fund is required to be at least three percent of the total county school budget. If the reserve falls to two percent or below, financial decisions for the school district are then taken over by the state.
The Hillsborough County School District is one of the largest in the nation, but financial experts for the county say spending by the county still exceeds revenue.
School board members say the federal COVID relief funds are only a bandage to a larger spending problem.
Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis eliminated more than one thousand teaching positions this year because of the budget crisis. Many of the teachers who’s positions have been cut were able to remain employed by the school district by switching schools.
Each year, Hillsborough County loses an average of 1,500 teachers through attrition. Those positions are being filled this year by teachers who had their existing position eliminated.
Davis says he hopes not to make any more cuts.
“We have made all the cuts that we can make at our schools and now we just have to watch enrollment along the way,” said Davis.
His cuts have not been popular with parents and some administrators. At a special meeting of the school board on Tuesday, a few parents arrived in red T-shirts with the words “Ditch Davis” in bold white letters on the front.
“Clearly there is a lack of trust regarding his leadership in this community,” parent Robin Ramsey told the board.
School Board Chairperson Lynn Gray says she doesn’t want to make any more cuts to personnel to balance the district budget.
“In terms of cutting more staff, cutting more teachers – and I want to speak on that – I hope that does not have to occur ever again,” said Gray.