Broward School Board Approves First Version Of Razor-Thin Budget
Broward County's School Board has approved the first version of a budget for the 2018-2019 school year, with more than $15 million in cuts compared to last year.
At the first public hearing for the budget on Tuesday evening, board members discussed the proposed budget- that would total just over $4 billion- with the Chief Financial Officer for Broward County Public Schools Judith Marte.
Multiple board members expressed frustration with the extent of cuts needed to balance the budget.
"I really don't know at what point much more can be cut," Patricia Good, District 2 board member, said. "It impacts us across the board. It impacts our programs, it impacts us operationally... it impacts our ability to give our teachers salary increases, which is something that we try to do each and every year."
The state increased certain education funding this year but, in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February, most of that extra money is dedicated for specific security expenses, such as more school resource officers and mental health counseling services.
That allocated funds are not enough to pay for all of the school resource officers the district needs. The school board has had to add an armed guardian program to fill the gaps that law enforcement cannot.
"We know that the state didn't give us sufficient funds," Good said. "Clearly, the district has made a great deal of cuts to make sure that we meet those critical measures."
The amount of money given by the state for teaching individual students only increased by 47 cents.
"We're getting to be about as thin as it's going to get," Runcie said.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said the budget puts a strain on the district to attract and retain teachers.
"That keeps us just at the same level that we were receiving funding at a decade ago...it's insufficient," he said.
Broward Schools plans to cut down on many administrative costs like fuel, supplies, vacant positions, and utilities as part of the new budget.
However, supplemental funding for schools to use for field trips to science, arts and cultural centers around the county, were also cut.
"Field trips strengthen observation skills by immersing children into sensory activities and provide living laboratories," Cox said.
Joe Cox, President and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, pleaded with the board to keep at least some of the previous field trip funding, upwards of $400,000. "For many low-income students [it's] their only opportunity to visit a museum or cultural institution."
This preliminary budget does not include any potential revenue from a new property tax that the school board has proposed on the Aug. 28 primary election ballot.
If the tax gets approved by voters, the money would go towards increasing teacher salaries, as well as compensating some of the new security officers and armed guardians.
The official budget for the upcoming school year isn't finalized just yet. There will be a second public hearing before the last deciding vote in early September.