The Alachua County Public School Board on Wednesday discussed a decrease in enrollment and how it will affect the annual budget.
The takeaway: Expect a corresponding budget decrease.
Alex Rella, assistant superintendent for the business services, led the presentation to the board in its annual budget workshop. He explained how the decrease in student enrollment is one of the main issues affecting the school’s projected funding for next year.
“The school budgets have been reduced. That’s just really a product of enrollment decreases that we’ve seen across the district,” Rella said.
Rella said most of the student losses were in elementary grade level, representing a projected decrease of more than 800 students.
Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association teachers’ union, approached the board and said that there is a lack of the employees’ voice and the regard for employee compensation in the workshop budget.
“We do think that there are people that have suffered a great deal this year, over the Covid pandemic, especially HyFlex teachers, which were about 1,100 teachers in our district,” Ward said.
Ward asked the board if there would be a raise budgeted for teachers or staff.
Rella said the board will prioritize step raises for employees, but they’re not part of the preliminary budget presented on Wednesday. Overall, employee salaries are down by over a million dollars in next year’s budget, he said, though those figures are expected to be revised in the months ahead.