Members of the public hoping to offer their input on the budget and millage for Sarasota County Schools will have the opportunity to do so during a public hearing on Aug. 1.
On July 24, the board voted 5-0 to approve advertising for the new millage, which totals 6.18 mills, down from 6.272 the previous year. It also voted 4-1 to approve advertising for a budget of $1.55 billion, an increase from the current fiscal year's $1.4 billion.
Bonnie Penner, chief financial officer for the district, said property values have increased this year, therefore the district will levy a lower percentage with the millage, despite generating more revenue.
“This is part of the trim ad, or the part of the trim law, that gets to be a little bit confusing: that we are required to advertise this notice of tax increase, despite in reality lowering the millage,” she said.
A typical taxpayer could expect to see $618 in school taxes for every $100,000 of taxable value, she said, a decrease of $9.20 per $100,000 of taxable value. The school will generate $666 million to $667 million from the 6.18 mills, she said.
Last year, the school district’s total required local effort for its millage was 3.024 mills, while this year that amount has decreased to 2.932 mills, a reduction of 0.092. The district also levies three additional millages, the voted operating millage of 1.000 mills, the discretionary operating millage of 0.748 mills, and the capital outlay millage of 1.5 mills, all of which remain unchanged.
While the board unanimously approved the new millage for advertising, Chair Bridget Ziegler was the only member to vote against advertising for the new budget.
She cited the fact that Terrence Connor had only recently joined the district as superintendent on July 17, stating she had concerns about the budget she needed to work through with him.
She said she is concerned about elements of the budget geared toward social-emotional learning, including the allocation of over $56 million toward that field, and said she did not believe it to be in compliance with state law.
An educational method intended to foster social and emotional skills through school curricula, social-emotional learning has been the subject of debate in recent years.