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Schools

More money will go to schools

Revenues will bring increased funding, but property taxes will still go up a few bucks.

By TOM MARSHALL
Published June 7, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE - State and local funding for Hernando County schoolchildren is projected to grow at a faster clip than in all but five of Florida's 67 counties next year.

But that revenue growth won't be enough to prevent at least a modest increase in property taxes, school district officials said this week.

When all of the millage rates are combined, the owner of a $125,000 house in Hernando, with the homestead exemption, would owe about $827 on the school portion of their property taxes, up 1 percent, or $8.10, from last year, said finance director Deborah Bruggink.

That increase is entirely due to a 3.2 percent jump in the "required local effort" millage mandated by statute, with other millage rates projected to remain level or fall, Bruggink said.

Those figures assume that property assessments remain the same as last year, she told the School Board during a Tuesday workshop. And they won't be affected by state discussions over possible exemptions, which affect only the county portion of the local tax bill.

Even with the revenue growth, Hernando County is again expected to wind up near the bottom of the state in per-student funding, placing 62nd out of 67 counties with $6,997 per student.

By comparison, Pinellas County will bring in $7, 396 per student, Hillsborough will earn $7,277, Pasco will earn $7,276, and Citrus will earn $7,162.

Hernando is expecting 23,278 students this fall, a 957-student increase from the year that just ended.

That's a far cry from the 1,500-student annual increases seen in recent years, but more than 26 counties that are expecting enrollment decreases, Bruggink said. Overall school enrollment in Florida is expected to grow by just 4,000 students next fall.

While each of those extra students brings more state funding to Hernando, some local costs are also rising. Health care premiums for district personnel are expected to jump 14 percent, and even with an enrollment increase coming. the state is sending nearly $50, 000 less in transportation funding, Bruggink said.

"How can that be?" asked board member Sandra Nicholson.

"It's a function of whatever they set aside, and we just get our share," Bruggink replied, explaining the state funding process.

Hernando still brings in less state funding than other counties with higher levels of special-needs, vocational or English-learning students, Bruggink said. And the county "loses" $2.4-million in funding due to the formula's cost-of-living factor, which deems South Florida -- as well as Pasco County -- to be more expensive places to live.

Some of those differences are narrowing, with the state paying a lower premium for students in those categories than it did last year, Bruggink said.

But under the state funding formula, counties such as Hernando that fall below the state average in taxable property assets struggle in comparison with more affluent counties, Bruggink said.

"If you raise more than the statewide average, you get to keep it," she said. "The state has recognized there is a disparity in property values per student, so they're trying to close the gap, but they're not closing it fast enough."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.

$8.10 The estimated amount that the school portion of property taxes would increase from last year for the owner of a $125,000 house in Hernando with the homestead exemption.

$6,997 The projected amount of per student funding for Hernando County schools next year.

23,278 The amount of students that Hernando is expecting this fall.

957 The projected student increase from the year that just ended.

62 Hernando County's projected ranking out of 67 Florida counties in per-student funding.

[Last modified June 7, 2007, 06:38:23]


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