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Substitute teacher pay increases

It’s official – substitute teacher pay has increased effective March 9.

The pay raise came to fruition at Tuesday evening’s Citrus County School Board meeting, following a discussion between district officials and board members at February’s workshop.

The conversation was originally sparked due to a shortage in substitute teachers, which Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel told the board was not specific to Citrus County.

Due to the shortage, and subsequent underutilization of the substitute budget for the current school year, school board member Thomas Kennedy suggested the pay be increased as soon as possible.

Two weeks later, it was.

Instructional substitutes are now being paid between $15 and $25 more per day, depending on degree level and certification.

Dixon

Board members also talked growth in Citrus County, as district planning director Chuck Dixon updated them on upcoming residential projects that may impact school capacity in the future.

According to Dixon, projects include:

Wyld Palms: 230 units off Turner Camp Road in Inverness;

Eisenhower Development Group project: 830 units on Citrus Springs Boulevard;

Crystal Ridge: 957 units bordering Crystal Oaks and Cinnamon Ridge in Lecanto;

Lecanto Preserve: 608 units at the intersection of County Road 491 and State Road 44 in Lecanto;

Tuscany Ranch: 7,000 units in Beverly Hills; and

Cardinal West: 430 units in the Lecanto area.

Of the six projects, Dixon expressed concern for the Crystal Ridge project due to lack of school capacity in the area. However, with the potential for up to 7,000 units, Dixon said the Tuscany Ranch project is the most concerning.

Although these projects will not have an immediate effect on the Citrus County School District, Dixon told the board they will be keeping an eye on it.

Dixon also presented the district’s 2021 summary of school capacity and 2022-23 controlled open enrollment plan, which the board approved.

According to the enrollment report, the district has seen a trend of Citrus eSchool students returning to brick and mortar. They have also seen a significant increase in homeschool enrollment, indicating overall student growth in the district.

School district anticipates growth

Every year, the Citrus County School District’s planning and growth management department crunches the numbers to address school capacity issues and plan for potential new growth.

Dixon recommended the board readopt the current attendance boundaries for elementary, middle and high schools for the 2022-23 school year, which is set for a public hearing April 12.

School capacity will continue to be monitored in the coming years. The district cannot simply build a school, according to Dixon. “You actually have to get a little crowded.”

For more information or to view complete agenda items and documents, visit tinyurl.com/t6phzraj. To watch the meeting, visit youtube.com/user/Citrus Schools.


Local
Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of the Citrus County Library System

Editor’s note: Every community depends on the resources and support that nonprofit agencies provide people, whether physical, material or emotional.

The Chronicle’s ongoing series, Nonprofit Spotlight, profiles the nonprofit agencies in Citrus County that exist to help make life better for us all.

To have your nonprofit organization considered for a spotlight, here’s the link to an online form you can fill out: chronicle online.com/site/forms/nonprofit_ spotlight.

Friends, not foes

The Friends of the Citrus County Library System (FOCCLS) are just that – friends.

FOCCLS was established in 2001 when three Friends of the Library groups – Central Ridge, Coastal Region and Lakes Region – joined together as a nonprofit. Later, in 2018, the Floral City Friends of the Library joined.

“Our day-to-day work focuses on raising funds for the Citrus County Library System (CCLS) through our book sales,” FOCCLS president Sandy Price said.

They also work to stimulate greater interest in local libraries, promote knowledge of functions, services, resources and needs of the library and encourage gifts, endowments and bequests to the library system.

“We want to help our library system provide the finest level of service to the people of Citrus County,” Price said.

Friends’ fan favorite: The Mega SaleThis weekend, FOCCLS volunteers will be booked and busy.

Every year, FOCCLS hosts two Mega Sales, offering a wide variety of gently used books and puzzles. COVID-19 canceled Mega Sales in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, but the sale made its grand return in October 2021. This weekend, the sale is back again at the Citrus County Auditorium, 3610 S. Florida Ave. in Inverness.

During the four-day sale, shoppers can expect the following:

Opening day: 3 to 7 p.m. March 11 with a $5 entry donation at the door

Sale continues: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 12

Half-priced day: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 13

Clearance bag day: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Our customers at the sales are thrilled to have access to such a wide assortment of books,” Price said. “The library system is thrilled to receive our checks to support their book acquisition needs.”

While browsing at your local branch of the CCLS, look for the blue dots on the spines of library books. Those books were purchased by funds raised from FOCCLS book sales.

Volunteers are vital

As a 100 percent volunteer-run organization, Price said FOCCLS’ love of books and libraries keeps them motivated. On a regular basis, 15 volunteers work twice per week at the book house, where volunteers sort, price and pack books for upcoming sales.

Approximately two-dozen additional volunteers assist with the biannual Mega Sale.

In addition, Price said, “Our member Friends of the Library groups are always looking for interested and motivated people for their governing boards.”

For more information, contact your local library.

More money, more books, better community

FOCCLS is completely funded by used book sale proceeds and community donations.

With the loss of two Mega Sales to COVID-19, the FOCCLS were left without their expected income, which was estimated between $55,000 and $60,000. However, they didn’t let COVID-19 get them down.

“We came up with a new business plan of ‘mini’ sales at various locations throughout the county,” Price said. With that, they were able to bring in a good portion of their typical profits.

Special to the Chronicle 

Volunteers of the Friends of the Citrus County Library System are vital to the organization’s success, especially during their biannual Mega Sale.

In 2021, FOCCLS raised $38,172 from book sales and donations, bringing their income up to $41,579. Of that income, $32,740 was distributed to the CCLS through member groups, thanks to an additional memorial bequest received.

According to Price, their budget for 2022 estimates annual expenses at $20,941, with more than 75 percent going toward storefront rental for book storage.

FOCCLS is always accepting donations of used books and puzzles for upcoming sales. Community members can drop donations of at their local library branch.

For more information about FOCCLS or to become a member, visit foccls.org. To reach FOCCLS, email friendsofccls@gmail.com or call 352-513-4221.


Local
Crystal Ridge housing development passes second hurdle

The 957-home Crystal Ridge development passed another hurdle Tuesday when county commissioners voted unanimously to send the project to the state for review.

The development will border Crystal Oaks and Cinnamon Ridge in Lecanto. The county’s Planning and Development Commission (PDC) in January also voted unanimously to approve the application – with amended conditions – and found it consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and land development codes.

Civil Engineer Chuck Pigeon, with Pigeon-Ardurra in Ocala, told commissioners the development would be built in four phases. He also outlined the use of “green” open spaces, which will comprise 70 of the 354 acres.

That pleased Commissioner Holly Davis, who liked the energy-saving features of the project.

“It looks wonderful,” she said. “That’s the way of the future.”

Some of the amenities include a community building with kitchenette, library and game room; lake dock and swimming; swimming pool; nature trails; pavilions and picnic facilities; pickleball courts and horseshoe area.

Tuesday’s action was what is called a transmittal phase of the project. Commissioners directed staff to send the application to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and other state agencies for review.

It will then come back to the county commission for further discussion


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