Revenue expected to fall far short of need for Pasco schools capital projects, staff says
Even under the most "robust" scenario, the Pasco County school district is on track to come up $429.7 million short of the $1.33 billion needed for construction and maintenance projects over the next ten years, chief finance officer Olga Swinson told the School Board on Tuesday.
She projected shortfalls in all of the district's primary income streams that support capital projects -- the Penny for Pasco local sales tax, impact fees, state PECO funds and the local property tax.
"We can only do projects for as much resources as we have," Swinson said. "So we keep moving projects."
She noted that even just considering roofing, air conditioning and pavement, which the administration has prioritized, the district appears to be $79 million behind need. And that does not take into account the county's return to rapid enrollment growth, which planning director Chris Williams told the board would require at least six more new schools over the coming decade.
Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said the district wants to increase its revenue. But "we are constrained," Hurley noted. "We can't raise funds ourselves."
It takes the County Commission to increase impact fees, which haven't gone up since 2005 despite the district's requests. The district is conducting a study to demonstrate the need for higher impact fees.
The Legislature controls the property tax rate for capital projects, which used to be $2 per $1,000 of assessed value but was reduced to $1.5 per $1,000. Superintendent Kurt Browning and the board have lobbied to restore the difference, so far to no success. Currently, Pasco spends about $1.148 of each $1.50 on debt service.
Lawmakers also control PECO funding, which has recently increased after two years of zero funding to school districts. And the local sales tax is dependent on purchasing within the county.
Hurley explained that the financial picture, in part, drives the board's move to rezone schools, so it can best use the resources it has.
"We simply don't have the money to build all the new schools we would need and, at the same time, leave some schools under capacity," she said.
Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said he and other leaders have begun meeting with school advisory committees and PTA groups to discuss all the financial needs. The goal is to have them understand that an increase in impact fees, or a return to a 2.0 capital millage rate, cannot alone solve the situation, he said.
"What's important for the school district is we have a balanced set of revenue streams," Gadd said.