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Tiny drop in school budget
The $455.3-million the School Board approved is down 1.7 percent.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published September 6, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - The state budget may be in a shambles, but that didn't stop the Hernando County School Board from signing off on its own spending plan Tuesday.
The board unanimously approved a $455.3-million budget for the 2007-08 school year, down 1.7 percent, or $5.5-million, from last year.
It also approved a total millage rate of 8.065. For the owner of a $100,000 home who takes the standard $25,000 homestead exemption, that would mean school taxes of $806.50, down 1.5 percent, or $12.40, from last year.
While a handful of residents came to the evening budget hearing, none spoke to the board.
The budget includes a general fund of $177.5-million, up 13 percent or $20.4-million from last year - largely because of expected enrollment increases and the additional per-student state funding that brings, said finance director Deborah Bruggink.
Capital spending was down 5.4 percent, to $246.8-million, because of expenditures of state bonds for a new elementary school being built off Northcliffe Boulevard in Spring Hill.
Right now there's enough money set aside in the general fund for a 5.5 percent salary increase for teachers, which translates into a one-step increase plus 3 percent in the current teachers' contract, Bruggink said.
"I think the concern is the special session," she added, referring to an emergency meeting of the Legislature, originally set for Sept. 18. That meeting, to cope with a state revenue shortfall projected to reach $1.1-billion, was postponed on Wednesday.
Funds have been set aside for a shortfall, but if the housing slump and shrinking tax revenues prompt the state to further scale back its financial support for schools, the board might be forced to reduce its spending plans, she said. That could cut into raises for some of the state's lowest-paid teachers.
But until the state makes a decision on taxes and spending, there won't be any negotiating over teacher salaries, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association union.
"We have not negotiated the amount of money at this time," he added. "Nothing has been put down on the table for a final position because we're all waiting on word from Tallahassee."
When that word comes, Vitalo said, the union might negotiate over the value of each salary step in the teacher contract and the district could amend its budget if necessary.
But that won't happen "until the politicians wake up" to the need to increase teacher salaries and devote more money to public education, he said.