April 29, 2021

Give us the money we’re owed

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said he’ll be pushing this…

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said he’ll be pushing this week to get federal ESSER funding released to the school district as soon as possible.

The money is part of COVID relief efforts.


What You Need To Know

  •  Hillsborough County Schools officials hope to use federal COVID relief funds to offset millions used during the pandemic
  •  FDOE, though, has said the funds should not be used for budget items or reoccurring expenses
  • Local officials say they are owed the funds after doing everything the state has asked of them

School administrators said it may be the only way to keep the district out of financial receivership.

Hillsborough County Schools officials are trying to make up for a loss of millions of dollars in the district’s reserves, which could trigger a state takeover.

“We’re going to continue to have to implement mitigation strategies related to reducing district budget, reducing travel, reducing overtime and being able to leverage federal dollars,” Davis said.

Some of those federal dollars are being withheld as the Florida Department of Education has said it doesn’t want the money being used to fix budget or for reoccurring expenses.

Hillsborough School Board Chairwoman Lynn Gray calls it “unfair”.

“We’ve been shifting money to cover all of the monies we’ve put out for COVID,” she said.

Other board members question why the money isn’t being dispersed, since the district opened as required by the state during the pandemic.

“We’ve done everything,” said Nadia Combs. “We’ve brought so many students back — we had our social workers go out there and find students, and so we’re saying now, ‘Please give us the money that we’re owed.'”

Davis put in a call to the Department of Education on Tuesday asking for a meeting.

But he said he doesn’t know if any money will be released before the end of the 2021 Legislative Session on April 30.

“They’re just looking at how they’re gong to fund education, the overall budget and how that impacts us, so that we do not use reoccurring dollars for hard positions, and I think that’s kind of where we got into that difficult place in Hillsborough,” Davis said.

He said district officials don’t anticipate any more job cuts for the moment.

Instead, they’re looking into ways to save money on energy, and are talking about asking the community for financial help.

School Board members also discussed drawing up a professional development plan for Davis.

They said it will focus on several key areas, including climate and culture, stakeholder trust, leadership style, board member relationships and collaboration.

Specifics will be discussed at a later date.