Hastings takes office

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By Kellie Parkin

Robert Hastings was sworn in as Levy County School Superintendent Tuesday morning, becoming one of the first Republicans elected to countywide office in Levy County.

"We keep in mind in all we do that we are bettering our system, thereby helping our children," Hastings said. "We need to remember that we are working with our students so that they can have a good and healthy and productive future."

Judge Joseph E. Smith administered the oath for Hastings, as well as Board members Paige Brookins and Beth Davis who ran for re-election unopposed.

"Thank you so much for your willingness to help our children," Smith said.

"Our public education in Levy County has long created a foundation for our students to go out and achieve success," Smith said, adding that he and his children were graduates of Williston High School and have gone on to attain graduate degrees and successful careers.

As the new superintendent, Hastings told the Board that addressing the current budget crisis will be a top priority.

"I'm not sounding the fire alarm," he said. "But the budget shortfall will certainly be an issue. We're not in a panic mode now, but we need to take precautions so we're not in one later." The state of Florida has cut education funding the past two years.

Hastings was adamant on the one key factor in making decisions regarding the budget as well as all other issues concerning the school system.

"How it effects the students in the classrooms - whatever is the least disruptive - will be the determining factor," he said.

Hastings said that he anticipates the budget to be reduced by 8-10 percent in the next fiscal year.

"When you spend 81 percent of your budget on personnel, it's obvious where the cuts will come from," he said. "I would hope that there be no layoffs, that we can absorb through retirement and attrition."

Hastings said that due to budgetary constraints personnel will be reassigned to better meet the needs of the district.

"With 900 employees... this county depends on the school system for much of the employment and well-being of families," he said.

SBLC Director of Finances Robert Clemons said he is looking forward to working with Hastings. "Bob has a long history in Levy County and a strong background," Clemons said. "He's going to do a great job."

In other business, the Board voted to open a short term $5 million line of credit at 3.4699 percent interest from Capital City Bank so that the district can meet its obligations until local tax revenue is received. Any monies used from the loan are anticipated to be repaid in two to three months. For the last three years SBLC has borrowed funds at this time of year while waiting for the county to collect property tax.