With just 86 students enrolled in Sarasota and Manatee county schools, Longboat Key taxpayers pay a hefty bill for education.
“They should name a school after Longboat Key.”
That phrase has been uttered frequently by elected officials over the years who are shocked by the amount of money the town contributes to the school districts in both Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Just how much is it?
In fiscal 2015-16, the town contributed a combined $33.07 million to the school districts through property taxes. With the districts reporting a combined 88 students, that breaks down to more than $375,000 per student.
In the last decade, the property taxes the town sent to the mainland added up to $682 million. School taxes account for approximately 60% of that money, or $292,662,300 in the last 10 years.
It’s a major reason District 5 Longboat Key Commissioner Pat Zunz has made it a goal to hold the districts accountable for their actions.
In December, Zunz achieved one of her wishes before she vacates her office in March.
She finally got the superintendents of the Manatee and Sarasota county school districts to attend a Town Commission workshop Dec. 14, to outline the state of their districts and highlight the contributions the town makes to the districts’ fiscal budgets each year.
The Manatee County School District received $10,699,691 from the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key property taxes in fiscal 2015-16, which amounts to 5.5% of property tax revenue countywide. The Sarasota County School District received $22,379,035 from the Sarasota County portion of Longboat Key property taxes in fiscal 2015-16, which amounts to 7.4% of property tax revenue countywide.
The Sarasota County School District is an “A”-rated district, and the town sends 32 students to mainland Sarasota County public schools.
Zunz told Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White the town knows “the Sarasota County School District is in excellent hands.”
The Manatee County School District, though, is a “C”-rated district, and the town sends more students — 56 in all — to mainland Manatee County schools.
Zunz, a north-end resident who has a granddaughter approaching kindergarten who lives on the Key, is monitoring that district more closely.
Manatee County Schools Superintendent Diana Greene told the commission the district has made great strides to fix budgeting issues that have plagued the district in recent years and is working to improve its school rating.
Zunz asked Greene to report back to the commission in a year to update the town on its progress.
“It will be gratifying to see some of the changes you are attempting to make,” Zunz said.
Zunz told the Longboat Observer in May that for the $10 million-plus we provide annually for the handful of students we send, we need to hold them accountable and provide input.”