Schools to face more funding cuts

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By Claude Lewis

This past summer, the Florida Department of Education warned school districts across the state that a general revenue shortfall could lead to a 4 percent cut in funding.

Deterioration of the housing market was fingered as the main culprit.

Lo and behold, they were right, as each district had their take shaved by 4 percent.

In Levy County, that added up to slightly more than $634,000.

Now just three months later, more storm clouds are on the horizon.

Levy Superintendent Clifton V. Norris received a letter from DOE stating that revenues are expected to be 3.9 percent less than the August estimates.

That means an additional substantial amount could be lopped from Levy. It would be pro-rated and deducted from the bi-monthly payments.

"The letter usually tells us clouds are coming," said Bob Clemons, Levy Schools Financial Officer. "It's a precursor. They're saying they don't have as much as they thought they had. They can't give away what they don't have."

The state legislature has the final say on all budget matters.

"I don't know exactly what the impact on us would be," Clemons said. "We'll have to wait and see what happens."

Looking further down the road, the horizon looks even darker for 2008-09.

The General Revenue Conference, which met Nov. 14, determined that monies for 2008-09 have been readjusted downward by 5.2 percent, or $1.5 billion.

That could mean a lot less money for school districts across the state.

The initial budget crunch had minimal effects on Levy, thanks to Clemons anticipating the shortfall and figuring it in before hand.

"I never put it in the budget," he said.

With further cuts looming, it could only be a matter of time before programs and jobs fall by the wayside.

"It doesn't look good," said Clemons.