New advisory committee hopes to help fix Hillsborough Schools $70 million budget shortfall

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Can the members of the Hillsborough County Public Schools community help fix the district’s budget shortfall?

“Right now, around $70 million operational deficit,” said the school district’s chief financial officer Romaneir Johnson.

A newly formed 15 person Hillsborough Schools Finance Advisory Committee held its second meeting Wednesday night.

They listened to a detail presentation from CFO Johnson on the district’s $3.3 billion budget.

“I think trust is essential,” she said about the new committee. “To see that we’re being transparent.”

Ellen Lyons is representing the Hillsborough County PTA.

“We want to find solutions that don’t involve extreme teacher cuts or loss of personnel or students to the district,” she explained.

Some school board members point out the state of Florida’s funding per pupil is well below the national median.

Johnson said the district is losing $28 million in funding this year because more than 6,000 students are transferring to private schools on state-funded scholarships.

Enrollment has also increased in charter schools, she added.

“When a large portion of a school goes to a charter or uses a scholarship, Family Empowerment or McKay Scholarship, that means there are less kids in the school,” Lyons said, “but the operational costs for the school are mostly the same and so that does create problems.”

At the end of the meeting, the finance advisory chair proposed taking a closer look at the bus driver shortage and whether the district has an appropriate staffing model.

“I have great hope the committee is going to take a concerted effort to understand the finances to understand what’s causing these deficits and solve them,” Lyons said.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 3.

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