LAND O' LAKES - After months of desperately looking for ways to save money, the Pasco County school district has found enough savings to nearly eliminate a projected $26.4 million revenue shortfall for the 2013-14 budget year.
One of the additions to the deficit-whittling plan would involve changing the start times for several schools.
Olga Swinson, the district's chief finance officer, told the school board at a workshop Tuesday that the latest savings should cut the deficit to $379,321 and that by the next board meeting, July 23, she hopes to be able to present the board a balanced budget.
Previously, the board had been able to cut most of the shortfall by combining some jobs, eliminating other positions and deciding not to meet state class-size requirements, among other efforts.
The savings unveiled Tuesday include a plan to change the start and dismissal times of 10 schools, which will allow the transportation department to consolidate bus routes and eliminate 30 or more bus-driver jobs. The savings is expected to be at least $803,584.
The schools affected and their new times are Fivay High School, 8:30 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.; Schwettman Education Center, 8:40 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.; Irvin Education Center, 8:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.; Moore-Mickens Education Center, 8:45 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.; Bayonet Point Middle School, 7:30 a.m. to 1:40 p.m.; New River Elementary, 9:40 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.; West Zephyrhills Elementary, 9:40 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.; Deer Park Elementary, 9:40 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.; Paul R Smith Middle School, 8:38 a.m. to 2:52 p.m.; and Ridgewood High, 8:30 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.
Linda Cobbe, the district's communications director, planned to send a recorded telephone message to the parents at those schools to let them know about the changes being proposed.
Assistant Superintendent Ray Gadd said he doesn't expect any bus drivers will be laid off because the transportation department already has 29 positions open and more openings are expected.
An additional $349,698 will be saved by eliminating a lawn-care-maintenance contract, and $200,000 will be saved by cutting the amount of discretionary funding schools receive for supply purchases. Swinson said the schools will now make their purchases through a state contract that will result in lower prices and therefore more purchasing power for their dollars.
The district also has learned that an increase in its property insurance is going to be less than anticipated. Before, the district expected a $500,000 increase for the $3.6 million premium. Now that increase is expected to be $288,536.
"Everything helps at this point," Swinson said.
The school board plans to hold its first public hearing on the 2013-14 budget on July 30.