Hillsborough school board looking to cut costs

Posted at 10:45 AM, Sep 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-22 10:45:43-04

Hillsborough School leaders are holding off on hiring certain director positions and are trying to figure out ways to cut costs as the fund balance has dropped to its lowest amount in years.

The fund balance is now at $146,022,869. That's down from 229,632,311 in 2014 and 269,268,530 in 2013.

The district saw a $126 M increase in expenditures from 2013-2014 to 2014-2015. Salaries were the largest expenditure at $77 M.

Review the Superintendent's Budget Assessment

Hillsborough schools saw an increase in 10,000 students this school year and the district now must hire more teachers to accommodate state class-size requirements, said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. Hillsborough schools also paid about $2 M dollars more in overtime this year.

"As schools continue to grow, we still need to put people in those positions," Eakins said.

The superintendent said the district is getting $62.2 in new revenue. The current cost savings is about $31.3 M and additional cost savings projections are about $20 M. District hiring freezes and 90-day lapses will save about $1 M, but there is still about $27.9 M remaining that needs to be reduced, the superintendent told the school board.

April Griffin, a Hillsborough board member, said the district needs to take a closer look at the contracts that the district enters into to assess what is necessary and what is not.

Eakins said they are reviewing every single contract. The district's financial office is reviewing the languages in the contracts and is renegotiating some of them. The district has already seen some cost savings, Eakins said.  

The district is also looking on how to save on recurring yearly costs. The district has $101 M in recurring costs each year, and that includes salaries and benefits.

Eakins said that means every single position that goes vacant in the district will go through a review and final approval process before being filled. He said the district is working to hold off filling positions not critical to safety or district operations by 90 days.  Eakins projects the district can save about $1 M through district hiring freezes and 90-day lapses in filling positions.

Griffin also said she wants to talk more about state FSA testing and the costs associated with taking them. She said it costs the district a lot of money to comply with state testing but they get no help in paying for it. She said it also costs the district in time and effort.

"This is a conversation that we need to have," Griffin said.

Griffin said the costs include purchasing technology to help students take the state tests.

Eakins said there could be some ramifications for not taking the test.

Eakins said his top priorities remain aligned with school board goals: better customer services, improving and defining culture, improving the high school graduation rate.

'There's been more transparency in these budget discussions than I've ever seen in my time as a board member," Griffin said. "There's never been the openness I've seen now."

The next board meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, 3:00 PM at Raymond O. Shelton School Administrative Center, located at 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida.