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POLK COUNTY – During a Polk County Public Schools work session Sept. 29, staff said that while the district is in no imminent financial threat at the moment, next fiscal year could be a different story.

“Next year's budget is going to be brutal,” PCPS Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone said.

A large part of the PCPS budget comes from local and state sales taxes. Perrone said that, according to state leaders, state coffers could lose around $7 billion in state sales tax income through fiscal year 2022 due to the pandemic.

To offset that estimated loss in income, Perrone said Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed all state agencies to prepare recommendations to achieve 8.5 percent budget cuts for next fiscal year.

Perrone said that could translate to an estimated loss of $46.6 million to the PCPS budget next fiscal year. To help put that in perspective, monthly PCPS payroll costs are around $45 million.

During the meeting, Polk County School Board member Sarah Fortney asked staff if there was any plan to lay off any teachers or reduce veteran teacher salaries to offset funding shortages associated with the pandemic.

“I get a lot of folks concerned about six-figure salaries (of district administrative staff) and (lower-paid) teachers doing double work in classrooms,” Fortney asked.

Public Schools Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Services Teddra Porteous said that, contrary to any rumors going around, there is no imminent plan to lay off any staff or reduce any salaries due to expected loss of funding associated with the pandemic.

“Absent a performance issue, (all public school staff) will be employed through December and then we will re-examine at that time,” Porteous said.

Staff said the reason why December may be a turning point is because that is when elected state legislators roughly start the process of creating the state budget and writing new laws.

PCPS Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said any rumor of imminent salary reduction is not true.

“I don't know where it's coming from about us reducing any salaries,” Byrd said. “That's never been stated — nothing that we would even consider.”

Byrd surprised many when she announced her planned retirement recently.

PCPS school board member Lynn Wilson appeared to validate teacher concerns.

“As much as we want to give our teachers a raise, I think, more importantly, nobody loses their job a year from now,” Wilson said.