SWFL school districts prep for shortfalls due to loss of tax, tourism revenues

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
School bus lets out kids at their stop in Lehigh Acres on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Credit: WINK News)
School bus lets out kids at their stop in Lehigh Acres on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Credit: WINK News)

While many businesses are reopening, Disney World in Orlando remains a ghost town. It’s among other tourist hot spots in Florida without a reopen date. And without the tax money tourism brings in, school budgets will suffer.

We looked at how school districts in Lee and Collier counties are planning for shortfalls.

School districts, big and small, have publicly worried about the impact the coronavirus could have on their budgets.

It was School District of Lee County’s turn Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins is bracing for a shortfall anywhere from $30 million to $50 million, maybe more. That’s because state revenues are down after two months of next to no tourism dollars and lower sales tax receipts.

“[What] I’ve already asked staff to do is go back and look at substantial reductions,” Adkins said. “At one point, this could potentially set us back a decade.”

Adkins told school board members during an afternoon workshop he’s trying to get ahead of the curve, admitting the District must wait for state lawmakers to deliver its funding projections.

“I have to stress to everyone it’s very important that a lot of the budget forecasts have not been put out there yet,” Adkins said.

Collier County Public Schools is calling for a tax neutral referendum to go on the August 18 ballot. If voters approve, Collier County would be allowed to move money away from capital projects to pay operational expenses, which includes teacher and staff salaries.

The Adkins and the school board in Lee County say they will go into much more detail on possible budget cuts during Tuesday’s meeting.

We reached out to both the Florida Department of Education and the governor’s office for their education funding projections, but did not receive response in time for TV air or online publication.

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