Five takeaways from the Hernando County School District budget, passed Tuesday

The $310-million budget is projected to leave the School District with a $21-million reserve at year’s end.
Hernando County School District [Douglas R. Clifford | Times (2018)]
Hernando County School District [Douglas R. Clifford | Times (2018)]
Published Sept. 11, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — After a final hearing Tuesday evening, the Hernando County School Board voted unanimously to pass a nearly $310-million budget for the 2019-2020 school year. It also set a lower millage rate for the coming year.

Here’s what you need to know about the budget and the millage rate.

  • The School Board approved a millage rate of 6.163 mills, the same rate it estimated at a tentative budget hearing in July. A mill is a unit of property tax measurement equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. This year’s rate is down from last year’s rate of 6.34 mills, due to a declining state-required millage. Even though Hernando County’s estimated property tax roll has increased by more than $600 million — about a 6 percent increase — the lower millage means the district will receive about $2 million more in property taxes, a 3 percent increase over last year.
  • The numbers have shifted since the hearing earlier this summer, but the budget’s total funding slightly surpasses last year’s funding. At about $309,857,000, the total funding is nearly $8.6 million more than the district received last year. Most of that increase comes from an $8 million increase in the general fund, led by a $6.2 million increase in state funding. The Florida Education Finance Program, the state’s standardized funding for school districts based on student population and other factors, accounts for that difference.
  • Speaking of the general fund, the district’s latest accounting shows that it begins the year with a fund balance of just over $30 million. It expects to end the year with that balance having dropped to about $21.5 million.
  • Most of the general fund will go to employee salaries and benefits. At just under $150 million, that category makes up about four-fifths of general fund appropriations, a proportion unchanged from last year.
  • Though it doesn’t concern this year’s budget, the board’s impending push for higher impact fees got a mention earlier Tuesday. Those fees, which homebuilders pay to offset new residents’ costs to the county, have to be set by the County Commission. Board member Jimmy Lodato went to the commission’s Tuesday meeting to gauge its interest in approving an increase, and he came away confident of its chances, he told the School Board. Superintendent John Stratton said the board will vote later this month on a resolution to ask for the increase, and he’ll take it to the commission in early October.

Though it didn’t come up at the meeting, the School Board also is considering a 2020 ballot measure that would give voters a chance to raise the millage rate. The outcome could significantly affect future budgets.