With the exception of one comment from the public, the Pasco County School Board passed its $1.04 billion budget with no discussion Tuesday night.
This year’s budget reflects a decrease of $63.3 million over last year’s spending plan. Since the 2007-08 fiscal year, the district has seen a loss of more than $296 million in funding.
To close the gap this budget year, the district laid off employees, did not fill open positions and instituted furlough days, among other measures.
Those furlough days were a concern for Pat Connolly, a math teacher at Land O’ Lakes High School.
“When I spoke to you in August, I said I didn’t hold the board responsible (for the funding crisis),” Connolly told board members Tuesday, Sept. 13. “I did ask the board to use fairness and compassion (and not to) balance the budget on the backs of the employees who give their hearts and souls to the children of Pasco County.”
Connolly told board members he was concerned that “non-mission critical” spending was still going on, such as the installation of new outside signs at the district offices, while employees would face unpaid days off this year. The district has included three furlough days for administrators and non-bargaining employees and two days for teachers, bus drivers and others in this year’s budget.
The final number of furlough days included in the budget is less than was originally proposed.
Even so, those unpaid days, Connolly said, pose a major hardship for employees.
“(They mean) more no-meat dinners at home,” missed trips home for the holidays and other sacrifices for workers, he said. “That’s not the right way, that’s not the fair way, that’s not the Christian way.”
He asked board members to make sure this year's budget wasn't cast in stone. If circumstances change, so should the cuts.
"I ask the board to ease my disappointment and ease my grief," he said. "This budget is not set in stone … the writing on this stone may be sponged away."
The budget passed unanimously.
The board also set the millage rate for this year. Pasco County property owners will now pay 7.644 mils, which is a reduction of .123 mils over last year. This translates to $7.64 per $1,000 in taxable value.