Hillsborough school district has been dipping into emergency funds to cover expenses symptoms of hormonal imbalance in females

Asked if he knew about the spending imbalance before Elia left in March, Eakins said, not to this extent. Meeting one-on-one with School Board members in recent weeks, he was similarly discreet, said member Sally Harris. He never mentioned names, just numbers, she said.

But those were estimates that fell short of the real number because they did not take into account a new pay structure offered under Empowering Effective Teachers, the system Elia initiated in 2009 with a grant from the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. That’s because teachers don’t decide whether they want to be included in the system until the fall — well after the contract negotiations — and many more opted to be in the system than the district anticipated.

The Gates grant is one example, as it is in its final year of funding.


Expenses anticipated for 2015-16 include $11.3 million for teacher peer evaluators and $6.1 million to pay mentors. Eakins said he will take a close look at these expenditures to see if they are worth sustaining, or if they should be reduced.

Eakins said he does not intend for instruction to suffer, and does not envision layoffs. While there might be some increases in class sizes, they will be within the law and, in some cases, will allow children to remain with teachers who have gotten to know them.

News of the spending imbalance comes after Hillsborough spent years building a reputation for strong financial performance. Elia often said proudly that Hills­borough was unusual in that it weathered the recession without laying off any teachers.

Now, Eakins said, two of three bonding agencies have issued negative reports about the district. While the district has not been downgraded, it could be if things do not improve. Under that scenario, Hillsborough could face higher interest rates if it had to issue more bonds.

While some board members say they were in the dark about the spending imbalance, chief business officer Gretchen Saunders said there were no secrets. The administration shared financial statements with the board regularly and posted them on the meeting agendas. Was it highlighted? No, she said, referring to the fund balance. Board members did not ask for a public discussion, she said.

As for why Eakins was not fully informed, Saunders said some information about spending was discussed at Elia’s 6 a.m. cabinet meetings. And Eakins, who was in charge of instructional and not operational matters, was not always at those gatherings.

Snively said that rather than placing blame, it’s important to work on better communication between district officials. The board needs to understand the finances even more so than ever before, she said. The board needs to be educated and informed in any area where we’re making decisions. It’s just as much their responsibility as the district’s.

Later, Eakins said, the district’s audit department — which now reports to both the board and the administration — will see if there are more expenses that can be cut. When a decision needs to be made that’s good for kids, we want to be able to say, ‘Yes, we can do that,’ he said. But we have to be stable in our funds to be able to make those decisions.