LARGO — The Pinellas School Board tentatively approved a $1.47-billion budget Tuesday night and a tax rate increase of more than 4 percent.
The proposed new tax rate is $8.06 for every $1,000 of taxable value, up from last year's rate of $7.73.
District officials blamed the increase on a $695-million drop in state revenue this year, which led the Legislature to reduce funding to school districts and increase the share of the budget funded by local property taxes. In past years, a larger percentage of the budget was funded by state revenues, mostly from sales taxes.
Another contributor to the increase: declines in property values countywide of $1.6-billion, which drives up the tax rate. "In essence, our lawmakers in Tallahassee have increased local property taxes to only partially offset the huge decrease in state funding," said Lanse Johansen, the district's top budget official.
For a home valued for taxing purposes at $225,000, school taxes would total $1,612 under the new rate, up by $66 over last year. School taxes are the largest portion of the local property tax bill.
The district cut $43-million from its operating budget this year, taking money from reserves, reassigning 500 employees, decreasing the number of assistant principals, closing three schools and forgoing raises for all employees.
The board will take a final vote on the budget and tax rate on Sept. 9. Copies of the budget are available online at www.pinellas.k12.fl.us/budget.