Florida schools to see flat funding ... if the stars align
On first blush, the proposed public education pre-K-12 budget coming out of the Florida Legislature overnight looks to keep funding for the system essentially flat for fiscal 2011. (See the runs here.)
But there are some key assumptions outlined in the documents that could make the picture less rosy in the final analysis.
First, the report figures that Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco will see some modest growth in students, which no longer is a given. In Pasco's case, 685 added students at $6,875 each is a lot of money that won't come if the students don't show. (Pinellas is projected to keep shrinking.)
Second, the lawmakers decided to pump up the expectations of how much money tax collectors will actually collect in local property taxes for schools. Instead of basing required local tax rates on the usual 95 percent, the draft conforming bill posits that districts will get 96 percent. You've got to wonder how likely that scenario is as people continue to lose jobs and homes.
Then there's the issue of a local .25 mill property tax for critical operating needs. If all districts levy the amount, there's an added $246.8 million to be had, lawmakers suggest. About two-thirds of the state's school districts, including Pinellas, did so this year. But Pasco and Hillsborough didn't. Will there be repercussions for failing to impose the added tax while district officials talk cuts to make ends meet? (The proposal would have voters approve any extensions of the tax past 2010-11.)
The budget still requires final passage in both houses before going to the governor. Stay tuned.