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Teachers' pay rises; school tax rate falls

School Superintendent Howard Hinesley praises the $1.1-billion spending plan approved Tuesday.

The School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a 2000-01 budget that bolsters teacher salaries while slightly dropping the tax rate.

Before voting, board members held a public hearing about the $1.1-billion budget that includes funds for enhanced algebra and reading programs and a proposal to let parents begin choosing their children's schools in fall 2003.

No one spoke at the hearing. Board members didn't even discuss the budget, except to make the motions required to pass it.

Superintendent Howard Hinesley called it the best budget since 1990, when he was named to lead the district.

The approved tax rate, $8.433 for each $1,000 of taxable property value, is a tad lower than the rate levied last year, $8.666.

Under the proposed tax rate, someone with a $100,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $632.48, down from $649.95 last year.

That assumes the value of the home remained the same both years.

Because of rising property values, many homeowners will find their school tax bills higher this year. That means the district will collect more money, even with the lower rate.

Like every year, district leaders said they didn't have as much money as they wanted to fulfill all of their priorities. But they accomplished some of their goals: paying for two extra training days for teachers, more practice materials for state exams and significant teacher raises.

New teachers, for example, will earn just under $29,000, plus a one-time bonus of $1,000.

In other news:

School Board member Linda Lerner tried to persuade her colleagues to bar groups that discriminate _ she specifically meant the Boy Scouts _ from handing out fliers on school grounds.

Lerner was referring to a flier that advertised a membership meeting for the Boy Scouts, a private group that excludes homosexuals. She said the district has a policy against harassment or discrimination, including because of sexual orientation.

"Would we allow any other discriminatory group to pass out materials?" Lerner asked. "I would think no."

Other School Board members and Hinesley said they did not think it was necessary to ban the Scouts from advertising their meetings because the fliers don't violate existing policies or interfere with the learning environment. Lerner's motion to establish a new rule failed, with no second, after a short discussion.

Proponents of the Marcus Garvey Academy all-black charter school have dropped their appeal of the School Board decision that killed their school's application.

The appeal was scheduled to be heard before the governor and Cabinet on Tuesday. The School Board had voted against the proposal because all-black schools are not allowed under the federal court-ordered race ratios.

Instead of fighting in Tallahassee, the Academy will continue its fight against the district in federal court.

The group has appealed a federal judge's decision to accept a settlement in the 1964 court case that led to cross-county busing for desegregation.

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