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Lee County School Board tentatively approves smaller budget

August 1, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Lee County School Board gave its tentative approval for a $1.44 billion budget for the 2018-2019 school year at its July 31 meeting.

The spending plan is smaller than the $1.5 billion budget for last year because revenue is down and reserves are shrinking.

"We are in a position where we are going to continue to have to do more with less," Chief Financial Officer Greg Blurton said. "We must decrease expenditures to balance our budget."

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Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins

For the first time in years, the property tax millage rate used to calculate the state and local funding for the district has gone down, according to officials. The 1.35 percent decline in the tax rate is providing the district $5 million less in local contributions than last year.

"The $5 million less we received this year would have been enough for a 1 percent raise for every one of our employees," he said.

The impact of Hurricane Irma is still being felt nearly a year later, officials reported. Irma's damages to district facilities totaled more than $31 million. Although the district expects to be partially reimbursed for the damages through insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it could take many more months, if not years.

"When you combine that with our minimal increase in funding from the state, and the rising cost of healthcare, we took a substantial hit to our reserves and fund balance going forward and expect the FY19 budget to be stressed in all areas," Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said.

The district employed cost savings and efficiencies in every department to balance the budget, according to officials. The district saved over $1 million in transportation costs, maintenance is being deferred, staffing levels were re-evaluated and some vacant positions eliminated. A recently completed efficiency audit by Gibson Consulting may help the district to identify other cost-saving measures.

The final budget approval is scheduled for Sept. 11.

The final numbers will change some as the 2017-2018 budget is closed and remaining funds are carried over. Grants will also come in during the year to help the bottom line and fund specific initiatives.



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