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School District could face budget shortfalls

By Staff | Feb 8, 2011

The Lee County School District could face between $20 – 40 million in shortfalls next fiscal year, based on budget projections recently released from Gov. Rick Scott.
Ami Desamours from the School District’s Business Services warned those numbers are still contingent on several factors, specifically Florida’s legislature accepting the new governor’s proposed budget.
“We don’t know quite yet how the legislature will accept this. We have to give it some time,” Desamours said.
Continued decreases in the millage rate, student allocation and federal stimulus funds are projected, in part, to drive the shortfall, but a tweak to the state’s retirement system for teachers will help to offset some of the costs.
Desamours said the FY 2011 – 2012 deficit could be as high as $52 million, but Scott’s budget does have some components to stave off that figure and bring it down between $20 and $52 million.
“Some of what the governor’s office is projecting will help to offset that,” she said. “We’re recouping some of those losses with retirement savings.”
The School Board has a “shortfall fund for board priorities” of roughly $34 million, according to Desamours.
If the total shortfall hits $40 million, the fund would obviously not cover the need, but could help. Yet, there are still some potential budget adjustments that could need to be made to the FY 2010 – 2011 budget.
“If there is a need mid year adjustment and use reserves, it will give us less to balance next year’s budget,” said Board member Jane Kuckel. “Regardless, it’s not good news … we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.”
“It’s not out of the realm we were expecting, but it’s disappointing,” Desamours added.
Scott’s projections included outlooks for the next two fiscal years, but School Board member Jeanne Dozier recognized that it was important not to get too far ahead.
“We are just going to focus on the next year’s impact … we really have a big job ahead of us,” she said.