By Mary Kelli Palka
Duval County public schools will have to cut at least 100 district-level positions to deal with budget cuts finalized by the Legislature last week, Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals said Monday.
He said about half of the positions are vacant, and the school system will try to help those in positions now find open positions throughout the system. None of the personnel losses is slated to come from the schools.
Duval County has about 1,575 positions at the district level, from maintenance workers to the superintendent.
The School Board would have to approve budget cuts. But board members have been waiting to get a clear picture from the Legislature before deciding how to deal with the shortfall, board Chairwoman Betty Burney said.
The school system's operating budget is expected to drop by about $51 million, to $998 million, next year.
Because fixed costs, such as transportation, utility bills and union-approved salary increases, are expected to go up about $19 million next year, the system is looking for ways to trim $70 million from its anticipated budget.
The state's budget calls for spending about $140 less a child in public schools, about a 2 percent reduction. The cuts come at a time when the state is feeling a ripple effect of a slow housing market and rocky economy.
The hit was supposed to be a little worse, but the state allowed school districts to use some of their capital funds to pay for operating expenses. That helped reduce Duval County's hole from about $85 million to $70 million, Pratt-Dannals said.
He said he's still reviewing with his staff what else to cut from the schools' budget.
The district has already limited travel and implemented a hiring freeze to deal with previous budget cuts from the state this year. Other options being considered to deal with the latest round of cuts include reducing programs, no raises for district administrators, shortened work days and changing the health benefits for employees.
The board wants to align the budget with its strategic plan, which includes goals for improving public education, and its Academic and Community Excellence Plan, which will deal with evening out enrollment at area schools, Burney said.
“The board remains committed to making sure schools get what they need,” she said.
Burney said that includes making sure there is money for art, music and physical education.
“We want to make sure we educate the whole child,” she said.
© The Florida Times-Union