Lakewood Ranch mother Angela Abrams has no hesitations about adding 1 mill to her property taxes if it will help better compensate Manatee County’s teachers.
Do other county residents feel the same?
The School District of Manatee County will hold a special referendum March 20 asking for the increase, which it intends to use for increasing teacher pay and adding 30 minutes of instructional time to each child’s day. Voters in November approved a half-cent sales tax, which is restricted to infrastructure projects and cannot be used for the district’s operating budget.
Voters in Sarasota County will reconsider the School Board’s existing 1 mill voter-approved assessment for operating expenses, which set the total millage at 7.209. It funds about 13% of the district’s operating budget and pays for 30 minutes of extra instructional time, preservation of arts and other classes and helps retain teachers, the district says.
The millage rate is the amount per $1,000 used to calculate taxes on property. For example, a rate of 6.608 equates to $1,216 annually on a home with a taxable value of $200,000. Adding 1 mill in that example costs another $200 per year.
Abrams will vote for the 1 mill increase. She has four children, two of whom have graduated from Lakewood Ranch High and two more still in school.
“My children have had nothing but wonderful teachers during their years in Manatee County schools and we need need to offer these educators competitive pay. Perhaps it is a bit too soon (since the half-cent vote), but (it’s) necessary,” Abrams said. “Even with one mill, we’ll only be nipping at the heels of what other counties in Florida pay their teachers and staff.”
Opponents to the tax say the district should operate within its means and still has more to do to prove itself as financially responsible.
Lakewood Ranch resident David Griese, a retired teacher, said he will not support the millage increase. Although he believes teachers should be paid more, he said the solution is only temporary.
He also does not think the district should pay to hold a special referendum, but instead should have the vote placed on the November ballot when it would not cost the district upwards of $250,000.
“The district needs to look long term,” Griese said, adding he feels the district needs a more holistic approach to fixing its finances.
School district officials and the majority of school board members say the 1 mill funding is needed and the March referendum will allow the district to incorporate the funding into its budget for the 2018/2019 school year, rather than later.
Charlotte — 971 teachers with average teacher salary of $45,385.32
Manatee — 3,195 teachers with average teacher salary of$45,778.45
Pinellas — 6,769 teachers with average teacher salary of $47,794.93
Hillsborough — 14,357 teachers with average teacher salary of $49,910.18
Collier — 3,015 teachers with average teacher salary of $54,069.58
Sarasota — 2,978 teachers with average teacher salary of $54,524.52
Florida average — 1,668 teachers with average teacher salary of $47,861.74
— Data from 2016-2017 survey by Florida Department of Education