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Schools' budget may increase 5 percent

Some of the money is likely to go toward staff salary increases and new teachers to handle increased enrollment.

The Pasco County School Board approved a tentative budget for the coming school year on Tuesday night and approved new tax rates to raise the money.

The budget is up about 5 percent over last year, totalling about $525-million. Most of the district's revenue, however, comes from the state and federal government, which regulate how the money is spent. The School Board controls about $263-million of the budget, of which about $60-million comes from local property taxes. The rest is unrestricted state aid.

School officials estimate that there will be about $13-million that isn't tied to any specific program and that the School Board can allocate as it sees fit. Most of that money _ about $7-million _ will probably be used to hire new teachers and buy new materials to keep up with the district's growing enrollment. The rest is likely to fuel an estimated 3-percent pay increase for staff.

On Tuesday, the board voted to set its mill rates at the same level as last year, which total .76 of a mill. A mill is $1 in tax per $1,000 of assessed property value. Coupled with the state-set mill rate of 6.134 and 2.815 in mills for school debts and school construction, the total mill rate for the new budget is 9.709 mills. That's down from 10.092 last year.

The board also voted to schedule the final public budget hearing for Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. in the School Board meeting room in Land O'Lakes.