Local News

District dips into contingency to pay for teacher planning time

SEBRING - The School Board of Highlands County will take nearly $1.5 million from its reserve/contingency fund to help pay for the new teaching positions that are necessary to bring back the secondary teacher planning period. The school board will vote Monday to waive a school board policy that requires a balanced budget. Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said to reinstitute the secondary teacher planning period the district added 37 teachers. "We are using some of our fund balance to balance the budget for that purpose, but our board policy states that we can't budget more than our current revenue," he said. But the board approved the new teachers and the planning periods.
In a memo to the school board members, Superintendent Wally Cox states, "I am requesting the school board to waive School Board Policy 7.10(1), School Budget System, to allow me to utilize $1,466,488 of fund balance to reinstate secondary planning periods for the 2013-14 school year." Averyt said the district's contingency fund will remain well about the state-required minimum of 3 percent. "We are currently at about 7 percent, if we take $1.5 [million] out, it would be down to about 5 percent, so we are still in good shape there," he said. How will the district pay for the teachers next year? "Obviously we are going to have to plan for that $1.4 million dollars that comes out next year because it's reoccurring," Averyt said. "Hopefully we will get new revenue from the state and part of it will be used to fund the rest of the planning period time." School Board Chairman Andy Tuck said the school board will continue its practice of the past four or five years of starting to look at the next year's budget in October. "We will figure it out, but the secondary planning is too important for our students and our secondary teachers to not have it in place," he said. The planning period was cut in the 2009-10 school year when the economic downturn affected state revenue, which led to reduced funding for education. The district trimmed 42 teaching positions due to the funding cut. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826