School District might not be on hook for $3 million in budget cuts

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY-The Indian River County School Board learned Tuesday that the district might not have to cut $3 million from its budget – if word from the Florida Legislative Session holds true.

“Things change up there rapidly,” Schools Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava, referring to legislative movements in Tallahassee. The School District would still have to cut about $3.6 million from its budget, but would not need to ask the teachers’ union for approximately $2.25 million in concessions.

“There’s nothing more coming our way,” La Cava said of state funding.

Chief Financial Officer Carter Morrison explained to the board that the state legislature is considering decreasing the amount of district-provided funding for the Florida Retirement System. The state has identified changes to the system that amount to $859 million in savings, according to what officials in Tallahassee have told Morrison. That savings would be passed along to the school districts and amounts to about $3 million in savings to Indian River County.

Prior to the latest numbers from Tallahassee, the School District had considered entering into memoranda of understanding with the Indian River County Education Association, which could have saved the district an estimated $2.25 million.

La Cava recommended that instead of dropping the proposed agreements with the teachers’ union, though, the district hold the agreements in abeyance, until the FRS changes in Tallahassee are finalized.

The “$859 million might not materialize,” La Cava cautioned the School Board. “We just don’t know.”

Regardless of whether or not the state comes through, the district still needs to chop $3.6 million from its budget, according to La Cava.

The School District’s latest budget proposal continues to show the elimination of 70 positions, including non-core teachers, certain teacher assistants, reading coaches, and assistant principals.

Other proposed cuts include closing the Simon Malls dropout prevention program and eliminating the first grade field trip to the Environmental Learning Center.

School Board member Jeff Pegler said he needed more time to absorb the new information from Tallahassee before weighing in on what other options the district could exercise.

“There are so many moving parts,” Pegler said, explaining that many of the proposed cuts were based on the assumption the district would have to pay more into the Florida Retirement System.

The School Board is expected to discuss the two proposed memoranda of understanding in an executive session later this week as part of negotiations with the union.

The board is also expected to discuss the budget at its May 10 board meeting. Board members could choose to vote on the budget that night or hold off until the May 24 board meeting.

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