Local News

School district budgets for more teachers and support staff

The School Board of Highlands County will be budgeting for more teachers and support personnel, but for the fourth year in a row, there are no plans to purchase new school buses.

The last time the district added new buses to its fleet was in 2010, when three buses were purchased. The district also bought three new buses in 2009.

Before funding cuts reduced its capital budget, the district added about 10 buses a year, which allowed for a complete replacement cycle of 100 buses over 10 years.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt said Friday, “no new school buses yet; we are hoping that we can get the half-cent sales tax.”

The half-cent sales tax referendum will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. If approved by voters, the tax would be in place for 15 years and would fund security and technology improvements, school construction and renovation projects and the purchase of new school buses.

While the district won’t be budgeting for new buses, it will be increasing its personnel budget with more teachers and support workers.

Overall the district will add 22.5 full-time positions, for a total of 1,526.6 full-time positions, in the 2014-15 budget compared to the 2013-14 budget, according to the second draft of the district’s personnel allocations.

Averyt said the district will be adding seven and a half classroom teachers and eight and a half support personnel on the 2014-15 budget.

The number of classroom teachers will increase from 826.5 to 834.

Cracker Trail Elementary will add two teaching positions and Lake Placid Elementary will add one and half, due to enrollment increases. Lake Placid High, Sun ‘N Lake, Park and Lake Country elementary schools will be adding one teacher, according to the personnel draft.

The full-time school-level support positions will increase from 313.5 to 322, according to the second personnel draft.

Many of the positions were added, as they were needed, during the 2013-14 school year and now the positions will be included in 2014-15 budget, Averyt explained.

At Thursday’s budget workshop, the school board discussed and reviewed its facilities, transportation and food service budgets.

The food service department is operating at “break even” and now is able to support its equipment purchases, which used to be paid for by the district’s capital budget, he said. “So they are doing great.”

The facilities and transportation budgets are “flat,” with no increases, Averyt said.

Due to the ending of the Race to the Top funding, the general fund will be used to increase the recruiting and staff development budget by $129,000 to fund the teacher evaluation system, which includes the peer evaluators, he said.

“At this point we are still reviewing the budgets, which are not balanced yet,” Averyt said. “We are still working toward that.”