Pinellas school board tentatively approves tax rate increase
The Pinellas County School Board tonight tentatively approved a $1.4 billion budget and a small rate increase in property taxes. But not before bashing the Legislature for forcing them to do it.
Last spring, for the ninth year in a row, lawmakers mandated that districts pay a bigger share of the cost of educating students.
"I don't think any of us on the board wants to increase anything," said board member Janet Clark. "I just want the public to know that many of us are unhappy with the position the Legislature has left us in."
The new rate of $8.35 for every $1,000 of taxable property value - up from last year’s rate of $8.06 - will prevent deeper budget cuts but includes no pay raises for teachers.
The owner of a home with a taxable value of $150,000 after exemptions would pay $1,253 - up $44 last year. But with Pinellas property values down by 11 percent, the proposed hike will still bring in $45.6 million less than last year.
The board voted 6-1 on one component of the rate hike - a quarter-mil increase that the Legislature gave school boards the power to temporarily levy, provided a super majority of members agreed. School board member Carol Cook voted no, calling it a protest vote. She said she would not have voted no if it would have jeopardized approval.
Board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea said she sympathized.
Lawmakers "keep making us bail them out year after year after year," she said. "And it's never going to stop ... if we keep letting them do this to us."
The board will take a final vote on the budget and tax rate on Sept. 15.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter