Published: Feb 16, 2011 9:52 PM EST
Updated: Feb 16, 2011 6:53 PM EST

In anticipation of projected budget shortfalls for the 2011-2012 school year, Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lawrence Tihen has implemented a "hiring freeze" effective immediately.

Given the state is projecting a $3-$5 billion shortfall (which translates to about $52 million less for Lee County Public Schools) next fiscal year, it's vital the District review all aspects of operations - and one way to save dollars now is by implementing a hiring freeze.The freeze is not expected to affect teachers.

Dr. Tihen sent the the principals and department directors in Lee County the following letter via email:

Dear Principals and Department Heads:

The FY12 budget cycle is now in full gear, and I want to make sure I communicate clearly throughout the process so everyone is informed of our progress and challenges.

The Governor released his budget early this week - a budget that gives our school district a $52 million loss to contend with for next year (FY12). The Governor's budget is, of course, only the first draft of what our budget could be; the Legislature must do its work before our final budget is actually determined.

We hope that our final budget will be more generous; however, we believe several themes will be consistent in next year's budget:

1. Lower property taxes (which means less revenue for us;)

2. No replacement of stimulus funds, and;

3. Some percentage of employee contribution to the retirement fund.

If these things hold true, then major budget challenges will be:

1. Reinstatement of art and music at the elementary level despite decreasing revenue;

2. Reinstatement of planning at the secondary level despite decreasing revenue;

3. How to handle the competing interests of the desire for salary increases to offset retirement contribution, and declining revenue;

4. How to preserve enough reserves to protect us from more major cuts in 2012-2013.

I will continue to take a long term view of the budget as we strategize. A major priority is to limit reductions in staff. To this end, effective immediately, I am instituting a hiring freeze for all central office personnel positions. Any exceptions to this will have to be approved by me. This freeze does not affect school positions yet, but I ask principals to please be thoughtful about filling vacant positions.

Thank you for your assistance as we develop next year's budget. We have worked well together and come through some difficult times over the past several years, and we expect to do the same this year. We will work hard to provide the resources you need to be successful and to forward a positive educational experience to all students.