Possible changes coming in Polk County Schools 

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Declining revenues will likely mean the loss of up to eight positions across Polk County Schools in the 2019-20 school year, Polk County Board of Education members learned Monday. 


At both its regular monthly meeting and a budget workshop beforehand, Superintendent Aaron Greene detailed the challenges that await the district in the coming year. Losses in district funds are attributed to a three-year trend of state and federal budget cuts, increases in costs for personnel and operations, a slight decline in student enrollment and a shrinking fund balance. 

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“At this point we see no other way for the district to mitigate the losses,” Greene said. “Reducing staff is not a desirable option. When 87 percent of funds are dedicated to personnel there aren’t many options left. We feel strongly our commitment to small class sizes in all schools has helped make us successful, but the district can not continue to operate with a financial deficit.” 


Greene told board members that the proposed budget includes the loss of six to eight positions. The district hopes to combine the use of transfers to or elimination of open positions to account for that number, an attempt to minimize reductions in active personnel. The board will also be asking for help from Polk County Local Government in continuing its generous funding of the district’s After School program.  


Board members expressed concern over the dilemma created by the declining funding. 


“I don’t think anyone on this board likes the idea of reducing positions, but we have to recognize the need to tighten our financial belt,” said Geoffrey M. Tennant, Board of Education Chairman. “The board has always worked to maintain small class sizes and offer a wide range of programming, but we have no choice but to reduce personnel costs.  We do hope we can come to an agreement with the county to continue the After School program.”  


During the budget workshop, Greene also presented a $25 million, 10-year facilities plan to the board, outlining the significant capital improvements that will be needed at all school sites. The discussion included projects to address improvements to security, aging infrastructure, systems maintenance and upgrades and technology needs.  Proposed bills in the state legislature regarding a capital bond for schools could provide some needed funding for the plan. 


The board will vote on the budget at its April meeting.  


In other action: 


* The board approved the annual Head Start Continuation Grant application and goals for the Pre-K program 


* Board members approved field trip requests submitted by Polk Early College and Polk County High FFA 


* The board received information and committee recommendations for the 2019-2020 academic calendar and will vote on the final version next month 


* An update was given on the district’s progress regarding Energy Performance Contracting with Schneider Electric.  

By Andy Rhinehart