Cluster Fudge

My second favorite fudge, layered of chocolate and Key lime, comes from Key Weird. This ain’t that.

Still, South Puffin is in about the geographic middle of Monroe County, the southernmost county in Florida, and home of that fudge. Cluster and otherwise.

Our county School District is $1.2 million in the hole again.

Regular readers might recall that the Monroe County School District has a history. A jury found former school superintendent Randy Acevedo guilty of three felonies for abetting his wife’s theft of public funds and off to jail he went. His wife, ousted Adult Education Coordinator Monique Acevedo, had pled guilty to six felony counts for stealing $413,000 from the district, although she blamed her crimes on an “undetected bipolar disorder made worse by an addiction to oxycodone.”

Alrighty then.

Enter Gov. Rick Scott who “gave” teachers a $2,500 raise this year; the boost was one of his priorities from the 2013 legislative session. So far, 17 Florida school districts have sorted out the pay raises and 50 have not.

Monroe County’s new school superintendent went a different route.

See, Mr. Acevedo and his successor, Jesus Jara, left district finances in the toilet. The unions refused to let the board reduce salaries. The electric company refused to waive the electric bills. The buses were already running on fumes. The board opted to furlough teachers, staff, and blue collar workers.

It was not a popular move among teachers, staff, and blue collar workers. They called the furloughs a “pay cut.”

“Randy and Jara spent your paychecks,” Superintendent Mark Porter told the teachers.

The furlough program has been in place since 2011 and has saved the district $1.7 million each of the past two years but it was a bad solution to a lousy problem and Mr. Porter wanted to end it.

The super tapped $1.4 million from Gov. Scott’s mandated teacher raise program to underwrite the cost of ending the furloughs.

Now state officials say the new’s plan to use the new state money is illegal. That means the state says we had to keep furloughing our employees to cover costs but we also have to give them raises while they are not being paid.


Flag of the Conch Republic -- Motto: We Seceded Where Others FailedAs an aside, it’s mostly our (local) money. Because Monroe is considered “property-rich,” 90% of school funding is raised through local property taxes, with the remaining 10% coming from the state. That means of the $1.4 million earmarked for the raises, the state kicked in about twenty-seven cents.

There was a reason the Conch Republic seceded from the United States in 1982. It is time to remind Tallahassee we still have our flags.

Worth remembering: the word “Fudge” in this usage is not the chocolatey goodness that sticks to your fingers but rather a substitute for a fine, graphic, four-letter Anglo-Saxon term.