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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco school district's capital planning filled with good news and bad

Pasco County School Board members got some positive news about their construction and maintenance plans for the coming school year.

- The local tax roll is projected to increase 7.02 percent to $25.2 billion, a bigger jump than expected in a June estimate. The capital millage rate looks to generate $36.3 million.
- Impact fee revenue are on track to rise by $9.2 million.
- Collections from the local Penny for Pasco sales tax remain at their highest level, with projections of $26.7 million for the new fiscal year.

The problem is, even the improved income isn't enough, district officials said.

Over 10 years, they explained, the district expects only about half of the revenue needed to cover $1.04 billion in anticipated costs. And that figure doesn't include the construction of new schools that are likely to be needed in the booming Trinity-Odessa area, planning director Chris Williams said.

Chief finance officer Olga Swinson noted further that for the coming year, all but $15 million of the district's capital funding is already appropriated. Of that $15 million, she added, just $4.5 million is unrestricted in its use.

Impact fee revenue is rising, Swinson said, but the district is borrowing against 2017 anticipated revenue to cover the costs of a new Trinity-area elementary school scheduled to open in 2017. Further, she continued, the district's improving tax roll remains nearly $5 million behind where it was in 2007-08.

Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said the board has few options to pursue to better its situation. It can advocate in Tallahassee for a higher permitted capital tax rate, which lawmakers reduced by 0.5 mills nearly a decade ago, he said.

It can push for higher impact fee rates, which the district is exploring but the County Commission must approve, or it can seek voter approval for a general obligation bond, as some south Florida districts have done lately.

School Board member Allen Altman said it is incumbent upon district leaders to explain the situation to the general public. The district has more than 2,000 buildings, he said, and it's difficult to maintain those while also accommodating for growth, all on a limited budget.

"Just the sheer magnitude of roofs and HVAC and everything else is a tall order," Altman said. "Then you add the need to build new facilities for those who are coming, and it makes this a challenge."

Swinson said her team would be working to refine its 10-year capital projects plan in the coming weeks.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 11:53am]


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