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Schools budget sees influx of funds, increase in spending

The millage rate is set at its maximum level as the district adds programs and teachers.

The School Board finished work Tuesday on its budget and tax plan for 2000-01, approving a lower school property tax rate while raising salaries and adding new programs and staff.

The board set the tax rate at 10.176 mills _ the maximum allowed under state law _ but still a drop of 2.9 percent from what the state allowed last year. A mill is $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed, non-exempt property. Under the new rate, a $50,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption will be taxed at $254.40, a savings of $7.65 over last year's rate.

Still, growth in the county's tax base allowed spending to go up. With debt payments, long-term building projects and other items, the total budget will reach $173.3-million, up from $138.7-million. Much of the increase is new lottery and sales tax revenues for the district's next high school.

The day-to-day operating budget will grow to $88.2-million, a $6.5-million increase. About $3.7-million goes for salary increases _ teachers and support staff got raises averaging 6 percent; principals and district administrators saw raises averaging 5 percent.

There's $1-million for new staff, including teachers to improve reading, reduce class sizes and cope with growth. A new microsociety and arts program at Powell Middle School adds $150,000 to the budget. A new fundamental school program at Brooksville Elementary will require two teachers at a cost of about $80,000.

Not everything is rosy. School lunch prices went up this year. And the district's fund balance _ its cash cushion for emergencies _ shrinks from $2.1-million to $1.8-million.

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