Seminole School Board Backs Down From Closures
Parents and staff are relieved that their schools will remain open, but the School Board Superintendent warns it may just be a temporary reprieve.
The school board was considering drastic cuts, including closing as many as two schools, to make up a budget shortfall of about $20 million.
Closures were just one of a number of austerity measures being considered: others included increasing student teacher ratios, and trimming some school programs.
At a meeting Tuesday the board voted to take school closures off the table- for this year.
School board superintendent, Dr. Bill Vogel, said the decision was made because the Florida legislature decided to wind back an increase in the amount employers have to pay into state employee pensions.
He said the rate was set to increase 2.44 per cent this year, but the Florida House and Senate appear to have agreed to a smaller increase of 0.45%.
“That would be about a $5.7 million saving [for the Seminole School Board] and that would reduce our budget shortfall by enough that I thought at this point we could remove the school closings,” he said.
Dr. Vogel warned parents and teachers that the board still faces a battle to balance its budget.
He said funding for Seminole public schools has been declining for years, and one potential move could be to increase the Millage rate, or property tax, to raise more money.
Lori Klingenberg, a PTA spokesperson at Keeth Elementary -one of the schools in the firing line- said the decision not to close the schools wasn’t a total surprise, but it was still a huge relief to everyone involved.
“The parents at Keeth Elementary and all the Seminole County schools have been very supportive, very proactive, and you know I think the school board saw this, the legislators heard from us and the overwhelming response and outcry made them rethink this,” she said.
Listen to 90.7’s Matthew Peddie talking to Bill Vogel about the challenges facing Seminole public schools.