With no members of the public present to offer comments, the Sarasota County School Board took about five minutes Tuesday evening to approve the fiscal year 2011 millage rates and final budget.
The new budget reflects an 11.8% decrease in the required local effort millage rate dictated by the state. The total millage rate, 7.635 mills, represents a 9.61% decrease from last year’s rate. One mill equals $1,000 of property tax value; the owner of a $200,000 home, therefore, would pay $53.20 less in school taxes as a result of the vote.
Mitsi Corcoran, the district’s chief financial officer, said she had received few calls this year about TRIM notices because the millage rate was decreasing.
“Even though this went really fast, it seems like it’s been going on forever,” Chairman Frank Kovach said after the votes.
Board member Caroline Zucker said that was because the board began working on the budget in October.
“It’s been a difficult journey,” Superintendent Lori White said.
Last month, Kovach proposed the board members take a more active role in suggesting future spending cuts, instead of White and her staff taking the lead on that effort.
“There are no easy places to cut anymore,” he said at the time.
“That’s going to be a real, real tough year,” Kovach said.
Total appropriations for the 2012 fiscal year are $373.2 million, down 3.18% from the 2011 fiscal year, primarily a reflection of fewer teachers and a move to have employees pick up more of their health costs. More than three-fourths of the budget — 77.91% — pays for salaries and benefits.
This school year, the district has about 2,350 teachers, down from about 2,420 last year. However, the official five-day student count was 41,088, which was higher than expected. Last year, enrollment was 41,238.
The district will be paying an extra $921,168 in salaries this year because it had to put 20 more teachers in classrooms to comply with the state’s Class Size Amendment.
Enrollment over the past decade peaked in the 2006-07 school year, with 42,460 students.
One school board vote Tuesday approved a budget amendment reflecting revenue changes since the board voted July 26 on the tentative fiscal year 2012 budget. The biggest change is a $537,880 increase in federal funding related to extra Medicaid-eligible families in the district.