Property tax rates go down as part of $1.3-billion Pinellas schools budget

Published Sept. 11, 2013

LARGO — The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $1.3 billion budget for 2013-14 that includes pay raises for teachers and a smaller tax rate for property owners.

The tax rate of $8.06 for every $1,000 of taxable value is slightly lower than last year's rate of $8.30. But as property values rebounded — increasing 3.4 percent above the previous year — taxpayers shouldn't be surprised by slightly higher bills.

The owner of a home valued at $200,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $1,410.50 under the new rate. (School taxes aren't subject to the full $50,000 in the state's homestead exemption.)

The new budget, up from $1.2 billion last year, includes operating expenses totaling $853 million. That's an increase of $38.3 million over last year, and it includes $18.1 million for teacher salaries. The school district has reached tentative agreements with teachers and other unionized employees to provide 5 to 5.6 percent raises, on average.

The operating budget also funds textbooks, school buses and other day-to-day costs. Forty-seven percent of operating revenue will be generated locally this fiscal year, while 42 percent will come from state funds.

Also Tuesday, the School Board gave final approval to its strategic plan. The plan sets goals on student achievement, school technology and other areas, and lays out time lines for reaching them.

"Today's the day," Superintendent Michael Grego told board members. "You're passing the budget. At the same time, you have this strategic plan. … These two processes should not be separate. They should be hitched together."