Advertisement
  1. Gradebook

DeSantis’ school tax proposal raises concerns among House Democrats

Republican leaders says they’re open to conversation, but unlikely to change course.
Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, argues that lowering the required local effort tax rate for school districts hurts efforts to recruit and support high quality teachers, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
Published Feb. 7

In his education budget proposal, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposes following the same taxing practice as the past three years — lowering the local property tax rate to keep collections stable, with the exception of the rate charged on newly added construction.

For 2019-20, DeSantis has called for a 3.85 percent cut in the required local effort. New construction still would boost the overall projected revenue by $142.3 million.

His stance has House Democrats wondering whether the Legislature is serious about providing for public schools.

“I am all for being able to save taxpayer dollars,” Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, said Thursday during a brief meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. “But by the same token, do we really mean that education in the state of Florida is a ‘paramount duty’? I don’t know. I question that. I really do.”

Valdes and Rep. Patricia Williams, the panel’s ranking Democrat, raised pointed questions about the required local effort during a presentation about the governor’s budget proposal. Their key points centered on districts’ inability to keep up with rising expenses or to provide adequate pay for teachers, without the ability to bring in added revenue by taking advantage of rising property values.

Chairman Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, observed that the state has increased funding for public education in each of the past several years. Valdes countered that any new money coming to districts had strings attached, leaving a small amount — 47 cents per student in 2018-19 — available for general use.

She suggested that any representation that people are saving money is misleading, as dozens of districts have simply raised other forms of taxes to boost the bottom line.

Valdes urged the committee to consider at the very least leaving the RLE alone. Continued decreases are "the reason why teaches are not getting raises. We are not able to maintain buildings in our districts. This is very, very concerning."

Latvala said his door will remain open to such conversations leading to the panel’s unveil of its own budget proposal, in the third week of session. He did not, however, expect major change.

“Over the past couple of years, the House had a policy of increasing the RLE on new construction only. ... When possible, we cut taxes,” he said. “I anticipate that policy will not change this year.”

During the session, some other tidbits about the budget organization also came out.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Citrus County Republican, asked why DeSantis had proposed reducing funding for digital classrooms by $50 million. A spokeswoman for the governor responded that DeSantis wanted to provide more spending flexibility to districts, so he moved the money into the base student allocation for a $50 per student increase, compared to that 47 cent figure of a year ago.

Several members noted the line item for Best and Brightest teacher bonuses, a program DeSantis wants to revamp (he held a news conference on the subject Wednesday outside Tampa), had been moved from general appropriations into the FEFP funding stream. DeSantis has called for a $224 per student increase in the FEFP.

Regardless of the governor’s proposal, the House will not necessarily be bound by it.

“We certainly appreciate the governor’s budget,” Latvala said during the meeting. “But we will be releasing our own.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.
  2. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  3. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    As expected, the union rejected the district’s plan to add work for middle and high school teachers in exchange for more money.
  5. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  6. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018) Hernando County School District office, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville
    Hernando County debates the pros and cons of superintendent John Stratton’s recommendation.
  7. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    A new proposal also aims to strengthen programs at the university’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota locations.
  8. Fifth grade teacher Michelle Brandon is one of four Hudson Elementary School teachers to be removed after two weeks of classes because of her state VAM score. Here she reviews classroom rules with students on the first day of school 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  10. A deputy's Sig Sauer P320, similar to this Glock 19, discharged in the cafeteria of a Wesley Chapel school April 30. The bullet lodged in the wall behind him. The deputy has been fired.
    Cpl. Jonathan Cross was lifting his pistol up and down out of its holster when it went off, Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement