Pinellas school budget wins first approval with lower tax rate. Some could still pay more.

The $1.6 billion budget was approved at a School Board meeting Tuesday. A second and final approval is set for September.
Pinellas County School District headquarters, 301 Fourth St. SW, Largo.
Pinellas County School District headquarters, 301 Fourth St. SW, Largo.
Published July 31, 2019|Updated July 31, 2019

A $1.6 billion budget won the first of two approvals by the Pinellas County School Board Tuesday, and it comes with a lower tax rate.

The rate for the coming year will be $6.58 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. That’s a decrease of about 2 percent from last year, when the rate was $6.73.

For a home assessed at $200,000 that has a $25,000 homestead exemption, for example, this year’s school tax would be $1,152. That’s about $3.15 a day.

Though the proposed rate is lower, some residents could see higher school tax bills, said district director of budget Karen Coffey. The same was the case last year, due to rising property values.

“It is important to note this is the result of an increase in property value and not an increase to our levied millage rate,” she said at the meeting, where members voted unanimously to approve the proposed budget. It will come for a second and final vote Sept. 10.

If approved, the district would collect about $27.3 million more in taxes than last year, Coffey said.

That includes increases in revenues from: the required local effort, or tax the state requires local school boards to levy in exchange for state funding; the discretionary millage, or amount the district itself decides to levy to cover general operation costs; the capital outlay millage, or funds generated for school construction and big equipment; and the local referendum, which voters have renewed every four years since 2008 to help the district recruit and retain quality teachers, preserve programs and buy updated materials.

The largest piece of the proposed budget — about 63 percent — is the general fund, which totals $978 million. The second-largest is the capital outlay fund, which fuels school construction projects and totals $344 million. In third is the district’s health insurance fund at $154 million.

District budget manager Lou Ann Jourdan said the district plans to continue its practice of spending at least 63 percent of its budget on instruction and classroom needs. At the same time, reserves are healthy and expected to reach 7 percent, which is more than double what the state requires.

There was no public comment or board discussion on the budget. But member Bill Dudley praised how well the document was put together.

Pinellas schools superintendent Mike Grego expressed his support, too, thanking the board and staff for working to finalize it.

“This budget is tied directly to our strategic plan," he said. “Consistent with past practices we will continue to examine all aspects of our budget, maximizing the impact to our students and to our employees.”

Watch the School Board meeting here

Contact Megan Reeves at Follow @mareevs.