I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Compromise May Be At Hand

After this afternoon’s marathon special meeting on budget reduction items and the Personnel Planning Document, (PPD) I feel confident that the board and the Superintendent are on the road to a compromise.

I had asked a month ago about closing Carver/Century to save $400-$600K, and was told it “could not happen”. The Associate Superintendent even went so far as to tell the PNJ that “No Elementary Schools will be closed until 2009-2010.” Today, the superintendent reversed himself, revisited this idea, has had a change of heart, and will be bringing the idea of the closure of Carver/Century to the board for action, for the 2008-2009 school year.

I take no pleasure in supporting school closures to free up budget dollars; however I am glad that the Superintendent has come full circle on this idea. It shows he is willing to compromise.

The Board has also asked for more efficiencies in the transportation department, and today the superintendent unveiled a plan to achieve an additional $1.7 million in savings.
This is forward progress in a very difficult budget environment, and shows a willingness on the part of the Superintendent to work with the board on these items. This is an ambitious transportation plan, but the savings achieved make it worthwhile. I hope this proposal is brought to the board for a vote and approved.

We all have to give and take, and I have been leaning hard on the Superintendent and his staff to make more reductions in the professional and administrative ranks. The Superintendent has stated that we are already at skeleton staffing levels and bolsters his case with a State generated document. This document clearly shows that Escambia County, at a $476.00 per student expenditure for Administrative staff—is well below the State School District average of a $525 per student expenditure for Administrative staff. This is a positive sign that perhaps we are not “top-heavy”

So, at the board workshop today, I pulled out a sealed envelope containing what I described as a “list of potential Administrative/Professional positions to cut” I asked my fellow board members if they were satisfied with the PPD the Superintendent had given us, as it seemed unlikely he would make any further changes. I asked this because I needed to know what my fellow board members were thinking, based upon the fact that the PPD was rejected by the board 4-1 at our last meeting. The answers were interesting.

Patty Hightower voted for the PPD the first time, but she said she wanted to see the Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) for P.E., Health, Wellness, and Driver’s Education put back into this document and she could approve it. Claudia Brown-Curry and I both agreed that this TSA position should be put back in the PPD. Patty then questioned the need for the CIM position, but in a very non-confrontational, polite way. She did not seem like she would request it to be cut from the PPD. Claudia Brown-Curry echoed that she wanted to see the P.E. TSA put back in, but offered no further comment on the PPD. When I point blank asked each board member if they thought any additional cuts should be coming out of the PPD, I got no response from Pete, except the cryptic “I voted with the majority to reject it last time”. Gindl offered no opinion about whether or not further cuts should be requested from the PPD, or whether he would suggest any positions to be cut. Brown-Curry offered no opinion about whether or not further cuts should be requested from the PPD, or whether she would suggest any positions to be cut. Gerald Boone did not offer any positions he felt should be cut from the PPD, but said he felt that if no further cuts were to come out of the PPD, that a district wide wage concession should be discussed. I agreed with him on that, but the union representatives on hand were quick to trounce all over the idea of any cuts to their bargaining units. So, the take away I have from this meeting is that I was the only board member that had a list of potential additional cuts to recommend from the PPD, and that at least three (most likely four) of my counterparts are ready to vote for it without any further cuts, if the P.E. TSA position is put back in.

With the Superintendent and his staff sitting around the table listening to the discussion,
The Superintendent quickly stated to us all that he would put the P.E. TSA back into the PPD if it meant the Board would approve the overall document. I feel certain the board will pass the PPD by a 4-1 or possibly 3-2 margin next Tuesday, now that the P.E. TSA position is being re-instated. No “constitutional crisis” is going to happen, cooler heads did prevail, and democracy works when people work together.

As for my sealed envelope containing what I described as a “list of potential Administrative/Professional positions to cut”, a couple of people asked what was in it after the meeting. I chose not to discuss it. I’ll just keep that envelope sealed until the next budget crisis erupts.


Anonymous said...

Working toward a compromise is a good thing. Many in the community do feel that there are more cuts that could come from the upper echelons of the Hall Center, though. Perhaps it is not a good idea to give up on those cuts so easily.

Jeff Bergosh said...

I asked the other board members point blank if they had further cuts in mind---none had any suggestions to offer. As I stated in the story, I believe the PPD will be accepted by a 4-1 vote. I cannot unilaterally recommend staff reductions, although I was prepared to do so. I have no support on this from my fellow board members. They voted down the PPD last month, but now this month they seem poised to vote for it, as is, with no further reductions. I do not understand their logic, but this is a democracy and I do not have three votes.