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Pinellas & Hillsborough County School leaders worry about funding amid budget shortfalls

"It's a slap in the face"
Posted at 5:21 PM, Mar 20, 2018

Tampa Bay area school districts feel shortchanged. Many are scrambling to make ends meet after they say Governor Rick Scott “blatantly ignored” their pleas for more education funding.

Pinellas County School Board members are fuming over next year’s education budget. “It was a slap in the face not to have them step up and say ‘we are going to do right for our children’," said Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook.

Leaders in both Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties met today to talk about a scary situation: Pinellas County will start next year $6 million in the red. Hillsborough district leaders say they are $30 million short of what they expected.

“The state has reduced the amount we are getting but increased the spending we need to do," Cook explained.

Pinellas County district leaders are dubbing it a “double deficit." First, there is not enough money to pay for educational costs. Then, there is not enough to pay for newly required security upgrades.

“Even the money going to the safe schools budget does not fund what the state is requiring we do for safe schools," Peggy O’Shae, another Pinellas County School Board member, added.

Pinellas school leaders learned today they need to hire at least 81 school resource officers, and potentially hire another 18 for the district's charter schools, putting them another $12 million in the hole.

In Hillsborough County, those extra S.R.Os will set them back $10 million. Despite pleas for more money, Governor Scott signed the budget, with an increase of just 47 cents per student.

Governor Scott says the budget didn’t allow much flexibility, considering state leaders added $400 million to the education budget to make schools safer. Both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties tell us they will be forced to make cuts, though it’s too soon to say where.

“They are going to be difficult decisions,” Cook added.