More than 7,000 jobs have been eliminated and a staggering $2.7 billion in state funding has been cut over the past year in the Sarasotas County School System.
Sarasota Schools Chief Financial Officer John Barch, who recently testified before Congress about the financial effects of the state’s education budget cuts, said that the cuts to the school system have cost the district $2 million per year.
“I think the fact that we’ve had to close schools, to close libraries and do all those things that we’re doing with our students that we could have done before that, it just means that we have to be really, really careful about what we’re spending our money on,” Barch told reporters.
The district has closed at least 662 schools, according to a recent audit.
Nearly 2,200 staff positions have been laid off.
The district also cut more than $600,000 in funding for education.
Barch said that he had been told that the closures would lead to a $1 billion deficit by 2022.
“It’s really difficult to have that kind of a financial problem that’s going to impact so many of our kids,” Bch said.
“We have to make sure that we invest our money wisely, but we also have to have the best possible resources available.”
Barch and other officials have also blamed the cuts on the state legislature, which passed a bill that stripped them of nearly all state funding in January, and the school board.
That bill passed the Florida House by a vote of 60-34, but was blocked by Senate Democrats.BARCH, who is also an assistant superintendent at a school in the district, said the school districts budget has been impacted by the state budget cuts.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that we were unable to have a full budget and all of the necessary resources available to us, so we had to make some tough choices, but it’s not just about the budget,” Bchaard said.
Sarasotas school system officials have said that they plan to close 1,500 schools.
The majority of those are in the Southside, but the rest are in Westside and Central Florida.
The school system has also been accused of overspending on its facilities, including a $2,700-per-day tuition for each of its 6,800 students.
Barch said the district has reduced the number of days it is open from two to two weeks.
The closures come as the state is seeking to reduce its budget deficit, which reached $5.4 billion in fiscal year 2019.
The state cut its budget for the first time in three years in late February.
The state cut the school budget by more than a quarter, from $5 billion to $4.5 billion.
It’s unclear what will happen to the rest of the district’s $3 billion budget.