Closer look at school tax shows how it performs
By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 20, 2008
North Shore Elementary students learn about Salvador Dali inside a 40- by 10-foot trailer, a partnership of Pinellas Schools and the Salvador Dali Museum paid for with referendum dollars.
[Willie J. Allen Jr | Times]]
BY DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Pinellas County voters approved a referendum in 2004 that has generated more than $67-million in revenue for Pinellas County public schools. The referendum will expire at the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year. The School Board is requesting a four-year continuation of the one-half mill property tax that would provide revenue from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2013.
How is the money being spent?
Over the first four years, an estimated $116.6-million will have gone for teacher compensation, $12-million for reading initiatives, $5.6-million for visual arts, $5.6-million for performing arts and $5.6-million for technology.
How much would the continuation of the referendum cost taxpayers?
The owner of a house valued at $200,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $87.50 a year, on top of $1,349 in regular school taxes.
What happens if voters say no to the continuation of the referendum?
The district will be required to do one of two things: reduce teacher salaries to prereferendum levels or make painfully deep budget cuts.
When do I vote on this?
Jan. 29, the same date as the presidential preference primary and the constitutional amendment regarding property taxes being proposed by the state Legislature. The January date was selected to allow the district time to plan should the renewal not pass.
Where the money goes
Some things referendum dollars have paid for:
-An average $3,679 a year salary increase for teachers, as well as additional training and materials so teachers can improve their classroom skills.
-A reading program for elementary students who read below grade level.
-Reading instruction for high school students who can't pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
-Art supplies for all Pinellas students.
-Marching band uniforms for high schools.
-Instrumental rental fees for students who can't afford them.
-Funding for middle and high school choral programs.
-Wireless computer labs for 64 elementary schools, 23 middle schools and all high schools.
-A laptop program at Osceola Middle School.
-$2.1-million in library books and more than 7,000 new books for classroom libraries.
Here's what you will see on your ballot
Ballot title: Approval of continuation of one-half mill ad valorem tax for school district operating expenses
Ballot question: Shall the Pinellas County School District ad valorem millage of one-half mill per year be continued beginning July 1, 2009, and ending four fiscal yeas later on June 30, 2013, for necessary operating expenses including funds to recruit and retain quality teachers; preserve reading programs and music and art classes; and provide up-to-date textbooks and technology, with oversight of these expenditures by an independent citizens financial oversight committee?
For more information on the referendum, go to www.citizensforpinellasschools.com.
For financial reports and meeting documents compiled by the independent citizens committee that oversees the referendum dollars, go to www.pinellas.k12.fl.us/Board/ICROC.html.
[Last modified January 22, 2008, 19:56:09]
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