The unique aspect of public school funding continued Tuesday as the Gulf County School Board held its final hearing on the budget for a fiscal year that actually began June 1.
As so much about, the rhythms are established in Tallahassee as lawmakers spend a portion of each spring legislative session filling in the blanks on the Florida Education Finance Program.
This year, lawmakers reduced the amount local taxpayers must pay for the district to qualify for state funding and the lone component over which the School Board has sway, was also lowered.
The result is that the school millage rate fell by 3.21 percent and overall school funding dropped by nearly 15 percent.
“I have not heard one word of complaint since (Truth In Millage or TRIM notices) went out,” said financial officer Sissy Worley.
The overall millage rate will drop from 6.6460 to 6.4390; a mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in appraised property value.
The millage rate includes a voter-approved one-mill operating levy.
School funding will decrease from $12.4 million to $10.8 million.
The district’s operating position was also boosted this year with more than $2 million in grant funding from Triumph Gulf Coast to mitigate property tax shortfalls.
One provision for receiving that money was not increasing the millage rate.
The value of the mill for school funding this year dropped 11 percent, from $1.8 million to $1.68 million, which, of course, also impacts the amount of money the district will realize from the additional operating levy.
Despite pressing needs at some aging facilities, the School Board shaved the local capital improvement, the lone funding component it controls, by 13 percent, leaving nearly a full mill available by law on the table as part of a pledge for voter support of the additional one-mill levy.
The major drivers for local capital improvement dollars are $500,000 to replace the track at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School, $320,000 to repair the heating/air conditioning at the same school and $150,000 for repairs to “The Dome” at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.
The district is hopeful that the Wewahitchka track work will be performed at the same time as the track at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, but the district is hoping for either FEMA or insurance funding for the Port St. Joe track.
Following Hurricane Michael the track area was used for staging law enforcement and the track sustained substantial damage.
Other capital dollars will be spent to acquire two news busses, three new trucks for the maintenance department and replace flooring at various facilities.
Hardening of schools will also continue with cameras at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School.