School budget drops by $225 million

 

School budget drops by $225 million

 

Date: July 28, 2011
by: Robin Roy | County Editor

 
 

The Sarasota County School District will collect $31 million less in property tax revenue in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, leading to an overall budget reduction of $225 million.

Most of the budget savings comes from a $210 million drop in capital spending. During the current fiscal year, the district has been working on major rebuilding projects at Booker and Venice high schools.

School board members July 26 approved next year’s tentative budget and set the millage rate at 7.635, which is down 3.4% from last year. That equates to a $53.20 reduction in taxes on a $200,000 home.

Because of the funding formula the state requires of school districts, a higher millage rate was unnecessary once the Legislature this year reduced student funding by 8%.

The per-student allocation of funds from the state fell to $3,479, which is only $66 more than the allocation 10 years ago.

To help offset total state-funding cuts, the board tapped into its operating reserve fund, using $16.3 million. It also cut spending by $12.8 million.

On the personnel side, the average teacher salary increased by $125 to $55,747, but benefits were reduced significantly. The average salary with benefits for district teachers fell $3,318, to $70,545.

A renegotiation of the district’s health-care contract with the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association also is expected to result in savings, with teachers paying higher deductibles. However, staff has said it hopes the rate increase will be no more than 3%. All district employees also will be required to contribute 3% to their retirement accounts as a result of legislative action.

Additionally, the district will see a 1% savings through a mandatory two-day furlough of teachers. Because teachers traditionally work more days than classes are held, the furlough will not affect students, district officials say. Employees who work 186 days a year also will lose one paid holiday. The combined savings from those changes are expected to total $2.15 million.

“All employees will be taking a 4% cut,” said Al Widener, the district’s deputy CFO.

One staff-reduction measure that has drawn considerable public attention has been the school board’s decision to eliminate intervention teachers in all the elementary schools. These teachers had identifying and helping students who needed special attention. The projected savings from this move are about $1.62 million.

To view a PDF of the budget breakdown, click here.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

 

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