While the Hendry County School District Virtual Meeting was brief, everyone involved agreed that the number one priority was to save jobs. The Superintendent of Hendry County Schools, Paul Puletti, suggested that the members of the school board seriously consider drastically cutting costs for the 2020-2021 school year, during the virtual meeting held on the evening of Tuesday, April 7. Due to the issues and changes surrounding the pandemic we are currently experiencing, Puletti urged the District to be extremely conservative while preparing for shortages and cutbacks, adding that if they found the cutbacks weren’t as severe, they could add things back in later on.
“We could be hopeful, but I would rather be conservative in preparing for this,” Puletti said, “First of all, before I say anything else, we are good through June 30. The state has told us our money is good through June 30. But for the coming year, due to this emergency I would suggest the board removes from 6% to the required 3%.” Heavy sighs could be heard from the others in attendance.
“We will have no new added positions added anywhere,” Puletti suggested, “Administrative, Teaching, or Custodial, no new positions.”
“We also need to build a budget that has no salary increases,” he went on, “Then, on top of that We need to calculate the cost of all of our contracts and we need to take a serious look at all of our contracts particularly those paid out of general funds.”
Some discussion was had between Board Chair, Stephanie Busin, and Ann Marie Ricardi, the Chief Financial Officer, regarding a report containing the contract and costs. Ricardi said she could provide that information as soon as Thursday.
“I have a feeling the federal dollars might also be impacted, but if we take this conservative approach and expect the worst,” Puletti explained, “If the state comes in and makes drastic cuts, the Hendry County School District will be in a better position to withstand it.” He reminded the board that he was on short time, but that they seriously consider his recommendations as they build their budget for the next year.
Busin agreed saying she had been taught, “You can do without programs but you cannot do without people.” She also asked when Puletti might have more numbers from legislators, but he was unsure. He reported that during a recent State Superintendents Association Meeting, the President of the association had warned them to prepare for a possible special session, but nothing was set in stone.
Jon Basquin, of District 5, said, “I’d like to see our numbers before we get too far into this,” he added, “but, I definitely don’t want to lose any jobs.”
The conversation went into taking a closer, detailed look at the numbers, before making any finite decisions but it seemed all were in agreement that this emergency would require some drastic changes.
“Before we go on we will lay everything out, but we are in an emergency,” Puletti repeated, once again stressing the importance of drastic cuts in order to save jobs, and to make sure they remained fair and equitable.
Before the meeting was adjourned, Busin advocated for some neighborhoods she had noticed may be transportation disadvantaged and in need of meal delivery. Dwayne Brown, of District 1, said he would be making arrangements for those in need tomorrow.
Basquin commented that there was a local grocery store that wanted to help teachers and first responders by holding special shopping hours. He mentioned they could contact him for more info, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 863-228-7180.
Amanda Nelson of District 3, and the Vice Chair thanked everyone involved for all of their efforts.
Busin echoed this sentiment and added, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do, and Henry county is tough.”