In a letter dated October 5th, Commissioner Eric Smith warns school superintendents across the state that Florida is facing major deficits for critical needs including education. In his memo, he warns that deficits could be nearly 23%. It is unclear if the legislature has the stomach to find any new sources of revenue but it is required to provide a balanced budget. This leaves the state facing the likelihood of major cuts to critical need services. The Orlando Sentinel’s School Zone blog reports this:
The bad budget news isn’t over for Florida’s public schools. Education Commissioner Eric Smith sent a memo to superintendents last week telling them that the latest state forecasts show double-digit budget deficits through 2013.
We wrote about that dismal budget news several weeks ago, noting that Florida’s “long-range financial outlook” was anything but rosy. State officials predict that anticipated state revenue will not cover anticipated state expenses for the next three fiscal years.
In his memo, Smith said the projected deficits could be nearly 23 percent. While it’s hard to know what the Florida Legislature will do (it must approve a balanced budget, in the end), he cautioned superintendents to be careful with their money.
“A prudent response at the school district level includes maintaining a healthy unreserved fund balance and avoiding decisions that create future operating costs in excess of the current level of funding,” he wrote.
Federal stimulus money helped Florida’s public schools avoid drastic budget cuts this year — though there were definitely cuts — and will help cushion the blow next year as well. But after that, well, that’s looking right now to be the “funding cliff” district administrators warned about months ago.