Putting in education-speak, the Florida Legislature has earned a tardy from the state’s 67 districts.

Putting in education-speak, the Florida Legislature has earned a tardy from the state’s 67 districts.

With final numbers for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), the formula for funding public schools, not expected until at least Friday’s end of a three-day special legislative session, school districts are nonetheless formulating budgets with the fiscal year ending at the end of the month.

“We are formulating a budget but we do not have final numbers yet,” said Superintendent of Gulf County Schools Jim Norton.

The Gulf County School Board on Tuesday, during a regular monthly meeting, approved the hiring back of more than 100 teachers and non-instructional personnel.

Those employees, with six or fewer years of experience, were non-renewed last month in an annual rite of spring and forced to wait on state lawmakers to finalize the FEFP.

However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed that portion of the budget last week and lawmakers began a special session Wednesday to hash out the FEFP and other vetoed portions of the state budget.

All indications from the district’s legislative delegation are that one result of the veto will be additional money for public schools, Norton said.

Scott, in his initial budget request late last year, sought to bolster base-student allocations by $200, but the FEFP budget submitted by the Florida Legislature would have meant a loss of $27 in the base allocation for Gulf District Schools.

Norton said indications from Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello) were that the deal struck between the governor and legislative leaders was to raise the base-student allocation by $100.

“That helps us, although all the constraints we had when we started this budget are there,” Norton said.

In particular, the level of retirement pay, or terminal leave pay as its known in educational lingo, which has spiked precipitously in recent years as a number of veteran teachers and employees have retired.

Among the most recent, Greg Layfield, the supervisor for maintenance, and his wife, Barbara, a long-time food services employee.

That retirement payout was among the factors that had the district staring down the barrel of a deficit of nearly $1 million during the initial steps in crafting the budget.

But with the increase in the base student allocation, and relying on a healthy unrestricted fund balance if needed, Norton said the district will weather this year with a cautious gaze at the coming year.

“Things are dire, but we are in a good position,” Norton said. “We don’t know what will happen next year, but we have to operate year-to-year anyway.

“But if some of these things come back before the Legislature next year, who knows.”

One thing Norton was committed on: the district will not raise taxes.

Predictions of what will emerge from this week’s special legislative session are that the largest component of school funding, the required local effort that local taxpayers must pay for the district to receive state funding, will drop slightly.

Norton said the district is also pledged to not increasing the local capital improvement millage, the one component of FEFP over which the district and school board actually have sway.

“The net effect, we believe, is that taxpayers will see a decrease in their taxes,” Norton said. “We will not pass along any tax increase locally.”

One capital project the district will move forward on, after a School Board vote Tuesday, is enclosing the covered playground area at Wewahitchka Elementary School.

The project has been among priorities for several years and the board approved moving ahead with soliciting bids for the work.

The goal would be to approve a bid and contractor before the end of the month in order to have the work completed before the August start of the school year.