Escambia County school board sets top 3 budget priorities

Escambia County college board units high 3 finances priorities

The Escambia County College Board turned over a unified leaf Friday as finances discussions started for the 2023-24 12 months.

Board Member Paul Fetsko known as for a particular workshop to make sure high priorities discovered a spot, though the board is uncertain of how a lot assist they are going to be receiving from the state. The highest-three want listing objects mentioned to date are worker raises, highschool renovations and the district’s navigator program.

“Since I’ve been on the board, the finances is usually labored up earlier than it involves us after which we’re proven, ‘That is what’s left to do different issues with,” Fetsko mentioned. “I would love us to have the chance to inform the budgeting forward of time: ‘These are our priorities.’ As a result of by statute, the board is meant to be controlling the finances.”

The 2022-23 finances got here to about $819.52 million, with nearly 1 / 4 of the finances generated by way of federal Elementary and Secondary College Emergency Aid (ESSER) funds. The 2021-22 finances, created earlier than the ESSER funds had been administered in three separate waves, totaled $741.10 million. Now that these ESSER funds are set to run out in September of 2024, the board should determine what packages they don’t need to lose.

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Board Member Invoice Slayton mentioned it’s time for the board to begin considering proactively about what they need to accomplish over the following a number of years.

“We’ve obtained to get just a little extra power in us,” Slayton mentioned. “Proper now, we’re having to be very defensive. We’re having to battle off sure detrimental issues. We have to take the forefront, take the ball and get it down the sector…Let’s begin charging forward understanding that we will’t do it subsequent 12 months. Identical to different issues can’t get solved in a 12 months. However on the similar time − folks like to listen to a plan.”

Listed below are three of the highest finances targets from Friday’s particular workshop:

Elevating worker salaries

Though the district reached agreements this 12 months with each the lecturers and workers professionals union, there’s nonetheless an unresolved wage compression drawback that arose after the minimal wage enhance final October. The abrupt hike as much as $15 per hour for all staff meant the gradual wage enhance veteran lecturers have spent their careers working towards instantly misplaced their worth.

As nationwide instructor shortages proceed and the district’s wage ladder system is demolished, the board agreed that staff want better incentives to remain.

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“I need to be clear that my No. 1 precedence for our finances this 12 months is ensuring that we’re in a position to negotiate a good increase for our staff and thereby inform them proper up entrance, ‘We’re searching for you,’” Fetsko mentioned. “Now, the caveat is, we don’t know what the underside line (finances) goes to be once we get it. After we do get that quantity, they (staff) are going to be a precedence in what we do with it.”

Some board members felt discovering an answer to the compression drawback will assist with retention and likewise with recruitment. This might probably assist departments which might be struggling to function proficiently, particularly the transportation division, which is considerably quick on bus drivers. Route managers have been compelled to take the driving force’s seat along with their each day tasks, akin to creating routes and interacting with households.

“I would love us to deal with having the ability to compensate our personnel appropriately,” Board Member Patty Hightower mentioned. “I additionally wished us to have a look at transportation… I don’t suppose we will proceed to function the way in which we’re with our transportation, with our college students and our drivers. We’re having to run so many routes.”

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Hightower mentioned dad and mom will name her regularly involved over their youngsters, notably on the center college degree, who’re lacking their first interval courses resulting from delayed bus routes.

Sustaining profitable ESSER-funded packages

Hightower can be calling for a deep dive into the packages the district is presently funding and their influence on pupil success. One program being supported by way of ESSER funding is the district’s navigator program, which she mentioned they have to guarantee continues. The navigators have acted like social staff, offering or connecting college students and fogeys to sources akin to meals, clothes, authorities help and well being care.

At a minimal, Hightower want to see this system stay within the faculties with the best wants if the district can not assist navigators for each college.

“I feel that’s one thing we now have seen to achieve success serving to our college students and our households,” Hightower mentioned.

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Fetsko mentioned the navigators have been fervently working for the reason that pandemic to handle points district-wide, akin to power absenteeism, by working immediately with pupil households.

“They (navigators) are additionally going to be one of many ones who assist with the attendance, determining why they (college students) are absent a lot,” Fetsko mentioned. “The (attendance) numbers have gotten to the purpose the place it’s extra important that we get college students in (college.) Someone’s obtained to intervene with the households who’re enabling college students to overlook a lot college.”

The district nonetheless has one other 12 months to proceed utilizing ESSER funding to assist this system however have begun looking for various funding sources. This might require slicing nonessential or redundant packages to shift funding towards those they really feel are really creating optimistic influence.

“That form of examination wants to begin, I feel, simply as quickly as doable,” Fetsko mentioned.

Renovating the district’s excessive faculties

As soon as wage wants and psychological well being sources have been lined, Slayton mentioned he want to see the district’s excessive faculties renovated to create a extra enticing look. The just lately renovated West Florida Excessive College serves as a shining instance of what each highschool within the district may develop into, he mentioned.

Board member David Williams added that after speaking with highschool principals, he has heard a want for extra outside sports activities fields to accommodate the brand new sports activities which were added, akin to flag soccer and lacrosse, which might be presently sharing amenities.

“Is there a spot in our finances the place we will enhance, preserve, purchase further land or develop land, particularly at the highschool degree?” Williams requested.

Keith Wasdin, director of amenities planning for the district, mentioned {that a} main renovation to every highschool has been within the works for years, however have been postponed by all the colleges that wanted to be rebuilt completely. Wasdin mentioned the rebuild of Myrtle Grove Elementary would be the seventh new college the district has funded up to now 5 years.

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Now that main initiatives are out of the way in which, they lastly can begin taking a look at enhancing aesthetics on the present faculties.

“Every of the excessive faculties will likely be considerably touched over the following 36 months,” Wasdin mentioned.

The district’s finance division obtained about $200 million in ESSER funds since COVID-19 started however are restricted in the kind of constructing upgrades they’ll use them for. Nevertheless, they’ll save district gross sales tax cash on ESSER-funded initiatives, like changing air circumstances models. They will then use saved cash for different upgrades the colleges might have, akin to new flooring, ceilings, paint and lights.

The district is stretching the ESSER assist so far as they’ll by specializing in generational upgrades that may nonetheless be impactful one other 50 years from now, Wasdin mentioned.

“We knew our amenities, and we knew what the wants had been,” Wasdin mentioned of allocating ESSER funds.

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