Pinellas schools budget slightly less gloomy

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If you’re superstitious, knock on wood. The Pinellas school district’s gaping budget holeactually looks – dare we say it? -slightly less deep in the wake of the legislative session – and may actually be less than the $60 million that had been targeted, reports Ron Matus of the Gradebook. “Based upon the finance team’s preliminary review it looks like we are facing cuts more in the range of $53.3 million or higher, but less than $60 million,”districtspokeswoman Andrea Zahn told The Gradebook in an email. “Please remember these are still estimates.”

The big reason for the change: A substantial decrease in the amount the district must contribute to the Florida Retirement System.

True, some of the Legislature’seducation cutsgot bigger at the end and would havedeepened the district’s deficit. But at the same time, lawmakers decreased theamount of money that districts are required to pay into FRS- a decrease that went beyond the3 percent contribution that employees will now have to pay into the system.

The district’s budget model included the $13.4 million in “savings” that came from the employee contributions. But the total savings from the FRSchanges adds up to about $30 million, saidFred Matz, the district’s chief financialofficer.

The school board is holding another budget workshop Monday.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.