Thursday, July 19, 2018
Education

School tax rate will decline in Pasco, but less money available for raises

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County property owners will see their school tax rate decline for the coming budget year, although increasing property values could offset the decrease.

The School Board tentatively approved its $1.2 billion budget Tuesday, with an overall tax rate of $6.773 per $1,000 of assessed value. That's down 33.6 cents from a year earlier, meaning the owner of a $125,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption would see taxes go down $33.60, provided the home's value did not rise.

This year, the school district's taxable value rose about 7 percent.

Overall, the budget is $30.5 million less than a year ago. The decline comes primarily in capital projects, while general operations are slightly higher.

But the increase comes mostly from growing enrollment and the resulting per-student funding. When accounting for inflation and spending restrictions, such as money that must go toward transportation, district finance officials said they had little wiggle room for new expenses.

The board and administration set employee raises as a priority, and initially spoke of giving an additional 3 percent to everyone. They could not achieve that level and still keep a balanced budget with sufficient reserves of 5 percent, chief finance officer Olga Swinson said.

Board members kept raises in the plan, but reduced the offer. Superintendent Kurt Browning alerted all workers in an email late Tuesday.

"Contained within this budget is an average employee compensation increase of just over 3.5 percent," he wrote. "This includes an estimated $11.1 million for salary increases, which equates to a roughly 2.65 percent average salary increase for all employees, $2.5 million increase in health insurance benefits, which equates to another .6 percent increase in average overall compensation, and $900,000 in increased Florida Retirement System contributions for all employees, which equates to .26 percent in average overall compensation."

The numbers are not final, as contract negotiations are not complete. The board also must have a second public hearing and formally adopt the budget in September.

No one from the public spoke at Tuesday's hearing.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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