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School board finalizes 2019-20 budget, millage rate

$874 million passes by 3-2 vote, with objections raised over reliance on reserve funds.

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  • | 6:38 p.m. September 10, 2019
  • Sarasota
  • Schools
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The Sarasota County School Board finalized its 2019-2020 budget of $874 million with 3-2 vote Tuesday.

Board members Eric Robinson and Bridget Ziegler voted against the budget and said it relies too heavily on reserve funds. To cover expenses in the 2019-2020 budget, $5.56 million will be pulled from reserves, which would cause the district to fall below its self-imposed reserve fund minimum of 7.5% of total revenue but still within the state-mandated reserve of 3% of revenue.

The general fund budget totals nearly $484 million, up 4.1%, from last year. More than $80 million will be allocated toward capital projects, including new classrooms at Gocio Elementary.

Robinson expressed concerns about cuts to Garden Elementary School in Venice, which this year went from an A grade to a C, as well as about cuts to the funding for the Young Marines program at Venice Middle School.

Board Member Shirley Brown said that because Garden lost its A grade, it lost its Title I funding. If the school board were to allocate general funding toward Garden, it wouldn’t have been able to use Title I funds for other schools, Brown said.

“The issue about Garden, to me — it’s not about Title I” Robinson said. “It’s about a school that goes from an A to a C. And I think that when schools drop like that, we should look to reevaluate and prioritize in our budget additional resources to try and help out that school.”

To replace the departing Young Marines teacher at Venice Middle, the school district intends to pay the new teacher at a rate matching the district pay schedule. 

Previously, a teacher was paid similarly to a high school ROTC teacher, whose salary was supplemented by funds from the U.S. Department of Defense. 

With a 5-0 vote, the board also finalized a millage rate of 6.943 per $1,000 of taxable value, a decrease from last year’s rate of 7.003.

This means the owner of a property with a $200,000 taxable value would pay $1,388.60, compared with $1,400.60 the previous year.