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Pasco schools plan to increase budget by 10%, with help from new tax

The district’s overall budget totals just under $2 billion.
 
Kirkland Ranch K-8 is one of several construction projects underway to handle enrollment growth in the Pasco County school district. The three-story school, shown in a rendering presented to the School Board on Dec. 13, is slated to open in 2024.
Kirkland Ranch K-8 is one of several construction projects underway to handle enrollment growth in the Pasco County school district. The three-story school, shown in a rendering presented to the School Board on Dec. 13, is slated to open in 2024. [ Pasco County School Board ]
Published July 26, 2023|Updated July 27, 2023

The Pasco County school district’s budget is set to rise by 10% for the new fiscal year, settling in just under $2 billion.

The general operating budget, which makes up nearly half the total at $996 million, is proposed to increase by 17.2% from a year earlier. Much of the added revenue will come from a boost in the base amount that the state spends for each student, combined with a voter-approved increase in the local tax rate.

The total tax rate is proposed at just under $6.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from about $5.52 the previous year. The county tax base went up by 17.6%.

During a public hearing Tuesday, Superintendent Kurt Browning said that the larger amounts of money do not translate into new or expanded programs.

The voter-approved tax increase of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value will generate about $54 million, all of which is dedicated to nonadministrative salary raises, including for charter schools. In addition, the district is limited in how it can spend the state’s increase of $552 per student.

As a result, while it appears that the district has more money to use flexibly, it does not.

Beyond that, Browning said the district is to receive $59 million in added state funding to cover the costs associated with 3,479 additional students. But he noted that $11 million of that is earmarked for charter schools and $8 million is set aside to cover vouchers, which are subsidies for students to attend private schools.

Other costs attached to that money include $7 million for increased retirement fund payments, $3 million for health insurance cost hikes, and $3 million for higher costs associated with software and school resource officer contracts.

“The budget also includes an increase of 158 school (employees) for an increase of $12 million,” Browning said.

The district is opening two new schools, Angeline Academy and Locke Learning Academy, and is bringing on staff to begin preparing for the 2024 opening of Kirkland K-8, one of several construction projects included in the district’s $529 million capital projects budget.

No residents spoke about the budget during the board’s public hearing. The final hearing and budget adoption are scheduled for Sept. 11.

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