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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida charter school funding bill worries bond rating agency



A bill that would force Florida school districts to share a portion of their property tax revenue for capital projects has prompted Fitch Ratings to issue a warning that such a measure could harm districts' finances.

"If districts are forced to divert this millage to charter schools, we expect some to struggle to find revenue in other parts of their budgets. Most Florida school budgets were narrowed by tax base losses due to the reduction in residential real estate prices across the state in addition to cuts in per-student state funding. And in the last few years, the state legislature has shifted 0.5 mill of the 2.0 mill capital outlay levy to operations.

"If the bill becomes law in its current form, we expect some districts to struggle to find room in their budgets to make lease payments on COPs. The bill would also divert resources school districts rely on to fund facilities maintenance, fleet replacement, and other capital needs on a pay-as-you-go basis. Many Florida districts have recently completed major construction programs, and short-term enrollment levels have dropped, alleviating this risk in the near term."

The concept failed to gain traction in a House committee on Tuesday. But it remains alive in the Senate version of the bill, which is headed the Senate Budget Committee once it is scheduled.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 3:58pm]


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