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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