Holmes County - The state handed down fines to school districts, not meeting new class size limits. The stiffest fine goes to Holmes County, more than $51,000. Other districts include Franklin County for $41,000 and tiny Liberty County $29,000. The smallest fine goes to Washington County at only $1,300. Bay, Jackson, and Okaloosa were not fined.
Some districts knew these fines were coming. Larry Zorn is the man in charge of bringing Holmes District Schools into compliance with the state's class size restrictions. He says it was easier for the district to pay the $51,000 fine than shell out hundreds of thousands to be in compliance.
"It would cost us between $400,000 and $500,000 to meet the state requirements and we were just not able to do it this year." With just 17 students too many districtwide, Zorn says the requirements are too restrictive. "I can see the class size... wanting it at 18, 22, and 25, but the state in the constitutional amendment ought to have left us a little leeway to have one or two students over without having a big penalty for it," said Zorn.
The district hopes to be in compliance in time for this fall's October deadline. "We will have to hire more teachers, and possibly some extra classrooms," at a price tag of $400,000 to $500,000. "It will take money from other programs, maybe even taking shutting some programs down to compensate for it."
After the $51,000 fine is paid, Zorn says the district plans to appeal to the state. They hope to receive 75% to 80% of that money back.