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September 28, 2003

FSDB passes $37.3 M budget

From: St. Augustine Record, FL - Sept 28, 2003

Rising enrollment prompts increse to add positions

Assignment Editor

Red tape in Tallahassee caused the Board of Trustees of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind to pass its 2003-2004 operating budget on Saturday, nearly two months into its new budget year.

According to Elmer Dillingham, president of FSDB, the school's $37.32 million budget began July 1.

But final approval -- in a 6-0 vote, with trustee Edgar M. Turner of Pensacola absent -- came late because the state took nearly a month and a half to close the 2002-2003 budget, he said.

"Most of the increase over last year is due to additional positions from mandates, and for additional security," Dillingham said.

The 2002-2003 budget was in the vicinity of $36 million, but school staffers did not have figures available Saturday.

Dillingham said the school's new positions are tied to the school's rising enrollment and to newly required medical outreach services to visual and hearing impaired infants.

Cindy Day, director of parent information, told the trustees that enrollment at FSDB was 843 students, with 722 on campus and 121 in the infant outreach program.

"Another 50 students are seeking enrollment," Day said.

Dillingham said the school's legislative appropriation is tied to enrollment.

FSDB documents indicate that the school listed 824 students in the 2002-2003 fiscal year, with 926 projected for this budget year, and 1,000 for 2004-2005.

The school had requested $35.5 million from the Legislature, but received $34.5 million. The difference between that figure and the $37.3 million of its budget is made up with the school's Grants and Donations Trust Fund, which will provide roughly $2.7 million this year, and the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which will provide $130,000.

This year's operating budget shows $27.7 million is being set aside for staff salaries and benefits. But Dillingham said that was not unusual.

"Eighty-seven percent of our budget goes to salaries," he said.

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