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Pinellas schools propose a tiny tax cut

EDITOR'S NOTE: Correction notice appended below.

The Pinellas County School District proposed a $1.35 billion budget Thursday, with a tiny dip in the property tax rate.

The proposed rate is $8.34 for every $1,000 of taxable property value, down from last year's $8.35.

The owner of a home with a taxable value of $175,000 after exemptions would pay $1,459.50, or $1.05 less than a home with the same taxable value last year. But with Pinellas property values down by 9.3 percent, the proposed rate will bring in $56.6 million less than last year.

The School Board will consider the budget at two public hearings, the first one set one for 7 p.m. Tuesday at district headquarters in Largo.

The tentative budget absorbs $14 million in costs to meet obligations to reduce class sizes and $26 million in cuts brought on by fewer students and declining state revenue.

The cut list includes $2.6 million in staff reductions (at least $1.6 million of that in administration), a $1.4 million reduction in substitute teachers and $200,000 from eliminating district-issued cell phones.

Also on the list: several big-ticket items that the teachers union has not signed off on, including furloughs ($8 million), shifting a greater share of health insurance costs to employees ($2.3 million) and putting a couple of hundred new teachers on lower-paying contracts for their first 97 days ($2.5 million.)

The district and the union are scheduled to meet in a collective bargaining session Monday.

Among the areas projected to have less spending next year:

• Busing by $1.4 million.

• Staff development by $3.8 million.

• Plant operations by $3.2 million.

• Plant maintenance by $2.3 million.

The proposed tax rate includes the same additional hike — 25 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property value — that the board approved last year. The Legislature gave school boards the power to raise that bit of additional revenue, assuming a supermajority of board members approves the increase.

The proposed budget also includes $35.9 million in federal stimulus money, which will run out at the end of the 2010-11 school year and help create a $54 million gap for 2011-12.

The budget stashes away $12.2 million to soften the blow.

CORRECTION: The Pinellas County School District proposed a $1.35 billion budget Thursday. Earlier versions of this story used in print and online gave an incorrect amount.

Budget is online

The Pinellas County School district's proposed budget for 2010-11 is available at Go to "Focus on Budget" on the left-hand side, scroll down and click on "Latest news on the 2010-2011 budget process." Then click on "First Public Hearing."

Pinellas schools propose a tiny tax cut 07/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 8:06am]
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