Hillsborough's lowered school tax rate would leave a smaller budget short by $12.4M, as state cuts allocation by $1.5M

TAMPA — Hillsborough County schools received some unwelcome budget news this week in the form of less state funding.

State education officials say the district will be receiving around $1.5 million less than expected for the coming school year because of adjustments in the state funding formula, said chief finance officer Gretchen Saunders.

Statewide, districts will lose $20.2 million in expected funding. In the Tampa Bay region, Pinellas schools will lose around $799,000; Pasco, $532,000; and Hernando, $171,000.

The adjustments were prompted in part because schools will not get $6 million in revenue from concealed weapons permit proceeds, after Gov. Charlie Crist this spring vetoed an attempt by state legislators to tap a state licensing board trust fund. The remaining $14.2 million reflects a decrease in money used to equalize funding between school districts.

Whatever the reasons, the state adjustment will mean the Hillsborough schools budget will be underfunded by $12.4 million rather than $10.9 million, Saunders said.

And it will push Hillsborough further down the road toward the possibility of staff and teacher furloughs. District and teachers union negotiators this month agreed to postpone further talk on that budget-cutting move until January.

On Tuesday night, the School Board adopted a tentative budget and millage rates for the 2009-10 school year.

Both are slated to be lower than last year, with enrollment projected to decline by 1,360 students to 188,228 students when school beings next month.

The board tentatively adopted a $1.6 billion operating budget, a 5.6 percent drop from last year.

The total budget, including capital construction and other funding, would be $2.97 billion.

That budget includes an extra $66 million in federal money, part of the federal stimulus that Florida legislators used to balance the state budget this year.

For the taxpayer with a home valued at $200,000 who takes a $25,000 homestead exemption, the school portion of the property tax would be $1,346.10. At a tax rate of $7.69 per $1,000 of taxable value, down from $7.77 last year, that translates into a $14.88 decrease from last year, Saunders said.

Board members will hold a final public hearing and vote on that budget and tax rate Sept. 3.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough's lowered school tax rate would leave a smaller budget short by $12.4M, as state cuts allocation by $1.5M 07/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 1:06am]

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