A Q&A about Collier and Lee school district budget cuts

Collier County superintendent Kamela Patton

Photo by GREG KAHN, Naples Daily News

Collier County superintendent Kamela Patton

Why is the Collier County public school system having financial difficulties this year?

Collier schools Superintendent Kamela Patton and top district administrators said the district has had financial difficulties every year since 2008-09. The district said this is due to reduced funding from the state. As an example of revenue decreases, state funding for 2012-13 is $879 per student less than it was in 2007-08, which is approximately $38 million.

"We have reduced spending every year since 2008-09," Patton and administrators said in a prepared statement to the Daily News.

In addition to reduced funding, the district no longer can rely on stimulus money, such as the $9.5 million it received from the Education Jobs Fund. The district was required to spend that money in the 2010-11 school year.

Even the Legislature's $1 billion increase in state money won't significantly help Collier schools.

At a March 14 School Board workshop, Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute said the district will receive $5 million additional in state money — Collier's allotment from the $1 billion.

But LaBute said the district will add 428 new students in the 2012-13 school year. This brings the balance on the additional state money down to $2 million.

"New funding doesn't replace Edujobs money," LaBute said at the meeting.

Michele LaBute

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI, NDN

Michele LaBute

Why are position cuts in the Collier district coming out of the schools rather than the central office?

Patton and her staff said proportionately most of the position cuts are coming out of the central office and support services.

"Thirty-two of the position cuts are within central office and support services and 68 of the position cuts are from the 50 schools which is less than 1.5 staff members per school," the district's statement said.

Does this mean Collier school employees in the eliminated positions will lose their jobs?

The district said that employees with other certifications could be rehired in teaching positions, such as math or English.

None of the employees in the 33 instructional positions eliminated will lose their job, Collier schools Superintendent Kamela Patton said Friday night. She said all of those employees will be offered a position within their area of certification.

None of the employees in the 33 instructional positions eliminated will lose their job, Patton said Friday night. She said all of those employees will be offered a position within their area of certification.

The Daily News reported in September that Collier schools increased staff from 2008 to 2011 while other public governments in Southwest Florida cut back on employees. Why hire then and reduce positions now?

"We were required to hire additional teachers each year as a result of the Class Size Reduction Amendment, which has been phased in since 2003," district officials wrote in a prepared statement.

Is this the first major effort the Collier school district has made to make position and other budget cuts since the economy took a downturn in 2008? Is this due to a leadership change?

This is Patton's second major cut since taking office in June 2011. Last year alone, the district cut $15 million and reduced 65 positions.

"We have cut over $100 million from the budget in the last four years," the district's statement said.

Is there a plan in place to avoid more cuts in the next few years? If so, what is that plan?

The district predicts that it is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in revenue. With the probability of additional unfunded state and federal mandates, the district said it anticipates that to maintain a balanced budget as required by law, the district will need to readdress its spending annually.

"We anticipate that expenses will continue to exceed revenues. Our plan is to continue to identify spending reductions," Patton and district administrators said.

In the Lee County School District, why would most of the positions come out of the district office rather than from the schools?

Lee schools Superintendent Joseph Burke said the district places its schools as its highest priority.

 Lee County Schools Superintendent Joseph Burke on NewsMakers 1-15-12.

Lee County Schools Superintendent Joseph Burke on NewsMakers 1-15-12.

"That is why we cut from the district office first before looking to our schools for cuts," he said in a prepared statement to the Daily News.

What efforts were made in the Lee district to make position and other budget cuts since the economy took a downturn in 2008?

Since 2008, the district has cut more than 350 positions in the district office, reduced or eliminated funding for special projects, taken energy conservation steps and reduced noninstructional positions (instead of teaching positions, for example) at schools.

This has eliminated more than $130 million from the general fund budget, district officials said.

* * * * *

Editor's note: Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature pushed for an additional $1 billion in education funding this year. The Daily News contacted the governor's office to ask about this emphasis on education even though districts say they are still underfunded and forced to eliminate positions. The Daily News didn't receive a comment or response back.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 15

brown writes:

Please re-hire Doreene MacShea.

FreshFace writes:

maybe LaBute is the problem?

flvsmom writes:

Major Activity Assignment Areas as a Percentage of Total Full-Time Staff, Fall 2011

State Averages
Administrative 3.6%
Instructional 59.7%
Support 36.7%

Collier
Administrative 4.0%
Instructional 60.4%
Support 35.6%

Lee
Administrative 3.9%
Instructional 59.8%
Support 36.3%

Source http://www.fldoe.org/eias/eiaspubs/xl...

Both Counties could do better.

Beachglow writes:

There will be more cuts and less money for years, and they might as well get used to the fact that there will be more cuts and more people looking over their shoulders. Let's get real people. It's not over until the "fat lady" sings.

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

Bless the teachers!

Who could've seen this coming, eh?

How 'bout having the principals in the schools and on campus during school. They should take charge! They can go to meetings and all after school hours. Eliminate all assist principals and if necessary assign a senior teacher to emergency school duties for the day when necessary and get a sub for that teacher. Great cost reduction. Current assist principals could return to the classrooms to teach and with proper certification, if necessary?, be considered for available principal positions.

All seem to do a great job except those that got us here. Choices will eventually be core classes or band and sports

For it all, it appears that the one room school house did better.

enufisenufbs writes:

Q: Why are you hiring an assistant superintendent that will be paid from operational dollars when we are firing people? Why do you need an assistance Superintendant from Miami? (when you are from)

Link to job: http://www.collierschools.com/board/m...

A: Because we hope you don't notice.

Q: Why is Micky Labute not forced to retire? She already retired once and came back to make even more money.

A: Because she is one of my hit squad that I use to make myself look better even though ultimately the buck stops with the Superintendent.

Q: Why is that kid Petry still employed after what he did?

A: Because I don't know how to use a computer and need his "magic hands".

John_Galt writes:

Why do we continue to allow our money to be taken by force, laundered by the Federal Government, and the State Government, then we fight over the crumbs they leave for us? IT IS OUR MONEY TO BEGIN WITH! Take back control of our schools, our money, our property and our lives!

Schools should be under local control, not federal, not state!

Vote them out! All of them, democrats, republicans! Vote Libertarian when you can.

http://www.collierLP.com

cons3rvative writes:

sigh...and the ignorant comments begin

anyone notice two 40+ million dollar homes sold in naples last month?

and we cant fund schools ? florida has very low taxes, particularly for the rich...look it up

cons3rvative writes:

in response to cons3rvative:

sigh...and the ignorant comments begin

anyone notice two 40+ million dollar homes sold in naples last month?

and we cant fund schools ? florida has very low taxes, particularly for the rich...look it up

i knew you were too lazy...

http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity...

http://assetsandopportunity.org/score...
In Wyoming, Nevada, South Dakota and Florida, the bottom quintile pays at least five times as much as the top 1 percent.(state tax as % of income )

http://www.businessinsider.com/histor...

http://www.americanprogress.org/issue...

Bramble writes:

How much do both Lee and Collier Schools spend on travel, conferences? Then add how much they spend to hire subs to fill in while staff is away on those trips.

RainMan writes:

in response to coIumbia:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Har... spoken like a true PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL UNION LOVING giberment employee or spouse of one :)

It's time to go to the charter school system completely, and lower everyones taxes, not raise them.

lSTlLLSPEAKFORGOD writes:

in response to RainMan:

Har... spoken like a true PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL UNION LOVING giberment employee or spouse of one :)

It's time to go to the charter school system completely, and lower everyones taxes, not raise them.

What does that say about our society if we cannot even fund the education of our childrens ? Peace and love , no matter your race or preference !! GOD BLESS !!

cornandbeans writes:

We have a weak school board. LaBut needs to be fired. That pompous disconnected old woman doesn't even live in the district.

#1 reason for financial difficulties at CCPS is the person responsible - Michelle LaBut.

flvsmom writes:

in response to cornandbeans:

We have a weak school board. LaBut needs to be fired. That pompous disconnected old woman doesn't even live in the district.

#1 reason for financial difficulties at CCPS is the person responsible - Michelle LaBut.

Couldn't agree more! There are a few other douple dippers that need to go as well. All drop program participants need to go.

And our posts will be deleted in 3-2-1...

RainMan writes:

in response to lSTlLLSPEAKFORGOD:

What does that say about our society if we cannot even fund the education of our childrens ? Peace and love , no matter your race or preference !! GOD BLESS !!

It tells me that our society has been taken to the cleaners buy unions saying I need more money, its for the children.

When in reality, charter schools work with less money, and get better results.

Moral of the story... the masses are being fleeced by unions.

If they were honest, they would say IT'S FOR THE UNION BOSSES and the PLOTITICIANS IN THEIR POCKETS, not the children.

It is time for America to shine again, and when the public school system is 25th in the world in math... it tells me God needs to be back in school and in society, not cast out of it.

And I am not even a holy roller.

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