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State could take over Clay County school district

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Updated: 5/17/2013 11:42 pm

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- Action News has learned the Clay County School District is looking at a $9 million shortfall.

Superintendent Charlie Van Zant says there is a big hole in the district's budget.

"If a family lives here and can't find a job, they have to move."

He says the reasons for the shortfall vary.

"There are a number of factors, but our issues don't have to do with frivolous spending," said Van Zant.

The district's budget reserves are so low, the state may take over. School board member Janice Kerekes says that could mean trouble. "It's not our personal checkbook," said Kerekes.

Right now, the next Clay school budget sits on a razor's edge. Only 2.5 percent of its projected general fund revenue sits in reserve funds. If that falls below two, the state could take over. Right now, no one knows where they'll make up the money. "That's the scary question, where to find the money," said Kerekes.

While they crunch the numbers, families are just hoping it doesn't affect their child's education.

The superintendent says their focus is on the students. "We have some maneuvering, and fiscal belt tightening to do," said VanZant.

School board members think they can get the reserve funds back up to 3 percent. Right now the overall operating budget is expected to be around $250 million. The school board will have several budget meetings over the next few months to figure out what to do next. They hope to have a budget approved by September.

he Clay County School District is looking at a $9 million shortfall next year.
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clay voice - 5/18/2013 3:26 PM
2 Votes
In just a few months, Van Zant has hired a young kid that worked on his campaign, to be a 2nd "District Spokesperson" - at a salary of 53.9k. Didn't need it. He spent 5k for Voss & Associates to do a study on communications - but didn't tell the Board (and then cut their communications with District personnel.) He wasted 3k by refusing to go to a workshop because his 2 friends on the board said they had to "work" at their OTHER jobs. He recommended spending 10k for lobbyists (again, 2 of his friends) and was stopped by the Board. He recommended spending 17.5k for a motivational speaker that, according to the contract, would speak for 3 hours at two events for District and School Administration. The fund the money is coming from is slated for "professional development" and the Board stopped him again. The Board has stopped his automatic 29.8 salary supplement (will cease in June) - and will be then be voted on yearly - at the Board's discretion. Van Zant started a wasteful lawsuit that would have cost the county taxpayers an estimated 100k... but after building a cost of 26k - he backed out. No leg to stand on. It has become clear that Van Zant's interest in becoming Superintendent has nothing to do with education, and that he will use the school budget to pay his way to some future run for political office. It is FAR TIME for the county to change the office of Superintendent to a nonpartisan elected position - or, better yet - a Board appointed position. It is also KEY that the citizens of Clay recognize that Tina Bullock and Janice Kerekes need to be re-elected. Otherwise, the board will be taken over by this family of politicians... and Clay Schools will degrade even more rapidly.

imtellin - 5/18/2013 7:30 AM
2 Votes
there's a big hole all right,, a big A-HOLE,, & his name is van zant !!! they frivolously squander money over there like it is their own piggy bank !!! this is a school district in serious trouble & van zant could start that belt tightening by ceasing his bonuses & court costing antics against the school board... instead of bickering back & forth like children,, the board & van zant should have been addressing revenues,, instead of wasting valuable money elsewhere on seminars !!! if I lived there in clay county,, heads would roll & we would be seeking a new superintendent & school board !!!

Truthseeker - 5/18/2013 7:29 AM
2 Votes
The school board needs to decide what the necessities are and what the niceties are. The niceties need to go until the economy improves. Sports and other extracurricular programs need to be put on hold until the county leaders can straighten out the budget. The schools need to get back to the basics and if the whiny parents want more for their kids, they can take the money out of their own pockets instead of out of the taxpayer funded coffers.
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