TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County School leaders are working under a tight deadline to finalize a financial recovery plan in a matter of days that will address the district’s ongoing financial crisis and help them avoid the Florida Department of Education from stepping in.
“Long term, we have to make sure that we’re on solid footing and prove to the community that for once and for all, we are committed to leaving this district in a better place than when we got here,” said school board Vice Chair Stacy Hahn.
Last month, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter indicating the district’s fund balance does not meet requirements and gave the district within 20 days to submit a plan.
On Thursday, the district’s financial team broke down two corrective action plans for the board, one with and one without ESSER funds, which the district explains are federal dollars being held by the state meant to be used for COVID-19 related expenses.
“I am very optimistic about receiving financial assistance from the federal government that they send down through the ESSERs by June 30. I feel really good about that,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis.
Without those funds, plans show the district will have a $10 million projected shortfall of a 2% threshold and a $25 million projected shortfall to reach 3%. The district explains below two percent is when the state could step in. The second plan presented showed how ESSER funds could fill the gap.
“We’re going to roll our sleeves up and continue. We’re working countless hours to make this a reality,” said Davis. “Trying to get to that two percent, we want to get to three percent, but overarchingly, our goal right now is to get to the 2% so that receivership does not take place.”
The district says they’ve already made progress on the problem. Other potential strategies to recoup funding that were presented include cost controls on projected savings and community support. ABC Action News asked Board Chair Lynn Gray how parents should feel about the meeting on Thursday.
“Parents at first, as we all were hearing the words, 'financial takeover, receivership, state takeover,' very worrisome,” said Gray. “But I want the parents to know and to feel that we are confident that we will not, and I repeat, we will not have a state takeover.”
The school board did not vote on a plan Thursday. School district leaders plan to come back again next Tuesday, May 11, where they’re expected to approve and then submit their financial plan to the state Department of Education.