BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando School Board has agreed to ask voters for permission to raise the tax rate if necessary in the next two budget years.
The board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a ballot measure for this November's general election that would seek approval to levy an additional 25 cents per $1,000 of property value for the 2011-12 and 2012-2013 budget years.
If voters approve, the board would have the option to levy the so-called critical needs millage in each of those years.
The district managed to balance the budget without deep cuts this year, but district staffers worry next year will be tough when stimulus dollars disappear. Board members agreed it wouldn't hurt to ask taxpayers to at least give them the option to raise the tax rate.
"I think when we look at the shortages we're going to have, it's almost imperative we give the voters the opportunity," board member James Yant said before moving to approve the measure.
The Legislature gave school districts the power to levy the quarter mill by supermajority vote for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 budget years. Hernando was not among the 44 districts that did so last year, and passed up the opportunity this year, too, citing the still-fragile economy. The levy would have brought in an estimated $2.2 million for the general fund.
The statute is somewhat unclear on whether school boards, if given permission from voters, must pass the increase with a supermajority or simple majority vote, board attorney Paul Carland said Tuesday. Carland said he would likely recommend the board do so with a supermajority vote to be on the firmest legal ground.
Also Tuesday, a sweeping plan to hire reinforcements and dole out performance pay to teachers and staff at Hernando and Central high schools took another step forward.
The board approved 10 new job descriptions for the two schools, which will be funded with federal grant dollars. The district expects to receive at least $3.5 million in the next three years — $759,000 for each school in the first year, and at least $500,000 per school in the second and third years.
The schools qualify for the 1003(g) grant because they are among the lowest performing 5 percent of Florida high schools. Both have received D grades according to the state's accountability standards and are under state supervision.
Some of the money will go toward performance bonuses and the purchase of new hardware and software. Most, however, will be used for additional staff ranging from test data technicians and instructional coaches to family liaisons and attendance monitors. The schools expect to add at least 12 positions between them this year.
Grant supervisor Eric Williams said Tuesday the district should receive final confirmation of the grant award within a couple of weeks. The goal is to have the additional staffers in place by December.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.