INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Ahead of budget town hall meetings, the Indian River County Tax Payers Association heard from the School District about how an estimated $8 million in budget cuts could impact classrooms, employees and the district as a whole.
“We’re going to have some Draconian cuts,” Assistant Superintendent Carter Morrison told the group at its luncheon this week.
While the State is looking to trim school funding by about 10 percent, local school officials expect the number to be closer to 8 percent – equating to an $8 million budget decrease.
Morrison, who assisted School Board Chairman Matt McCain in the presentation, told the group that staff is being directed to “protect the core,” meet class size requirements and state mandates. Everything else is “up for grabs.”
McCain, an accountant, told the Indian River Tax Payers Association that it is deceiving to look at the overall numbers in the School District’s budget – that there is only a small portion of the funds that the district and School Board have discretion over.
“The district is required to do so many things,” McCain said, later explaining that certain schools get extra money due to the demographics, yet that money must be spent on specific things the State tells the district to do.
McCain urged the group’s members to call on any connections they have at the State Legislature to prevail upon legislators to stop the unfunded mandates and telling the district what it has to do.
The call to action netted applause from the group.
McCain told the group that the last few years have been painful in making the necessary cuts to meet budget constraints.
“Last year was really painful,” he said. “Last year was tough.”
He added of this year’s round of cuts that no one on the School Board or at the School District believe that the coming cuts are good ideas.
“They’re all bad ideas,” he said.
Morrison told the Tax Payers Association that over the last three years, the district has cut $33 million from its budget and eliminated 244 positions – the equivalent of 10 percent of its workforce.
“And it’s not getting any better,” he said. “It has come down to a choice.”
Morrison explained that though the district is doing what it can to save money, it’s not enough.
“Ultimately we’re still struggling,” he said, adding that every dollar the district saves, it goes back into the budget to shore up the gaps.