The Gulf County School Board on Monday formally adopted the final budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
After cutting the budget for another year, board members approved a millage that is below the rollback rate even as the Florida Legislature increased the burden on local taxpayers.
The board adopted a final budget and millage rate that will have taxpayers seeing a 1 percent rise in property taxes for the coming fiscal year.
The rollback rate is the millage at which the school district would raise the same amount of taxes as the current fiscal year.
A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 in taxable property value.
The mill declined in worth to the school board – which has differing mandates assessing property values for budgetary reasons – by just over $2,000, less than two tenths of one percent.
“This has not been an easy school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “We are spending nearly one million dollars less than we did last year. This is the seventh consecutive year the district has had to do with less.”
School board budgets are different from other taxing authorities in that most of the leeway in numbers is removed by Tallahassee.
The Florida Legislature each year sets two of the three primary components of school funding in the FEFP, or Florida Education Finance Program.
And this year, while the state boosted revenue in some areas, it was balanced by cuts in other areas, deputy superintendent of schools Sara Joe Wooten said.
The primary component, Required Local Effort, is that which the district must raise to receive any state funding under FEFP.
That component, set by state lawmakers this spring, went up from 4.838 mills to 4.870, an increase of two-thirds of a percent from the current fiscal year, or .032 in mills.
Discretionary millage, that used for essential school operations, remained the same, as it did for all districts, .748 mills.
The Gulf County School Board, for the first time in more than four years, increased the one component of the millage rate over which it has any say, Local Capital Improvement, or bricks and mortar dollars.
With buildings in the district aging – the newest public schools are more than 40 years old – and little prospect on the state or local level for major capital funding for a new school or consolidated system, board members felt they had no choice but to increase LCI to address needs.
“We are still one of the lowest in the state on LCI,” said district financial officer Sissy Worley.
The addition of .045 mills to the existing .400 mills increases LCI 11.25 percent and an additional $59,669 in bricks and mortar funding.
Those funds will be used for repairs and improvements to roofs, doors, covered play areas, flooring, lighting and fire alarms.
The school millage also includes for the next four years a voter-approved additional mill in operating revenue.
The school millage rate will increase from 6.986 to 7.063, bringing the ad valorem budget to $9.511 million, an increase of $87,434 dollars.