Fewer Mills = More Money?
The Tentative Budget totals almost $358 million, but that was not enough to draw even one comment during the public hearing portion of the regular school board meeting. Still, in order for the State of Florida to fund more than half of the Tentative Budget, Assistant Superintendent Keith Birkett said there are guidelines for Millage rates the county must follow.
"School systems are a bit unique in the way we have to propose our taxes," he explained. "The state tells us we have to levy a certain Millage amount, called the required local effort, in order to receive state funding. So if we don't levy those Millages, then we don't receive any state funding."
The Tentative Millage - just under 8.4 percent - will bring in more money than last year even though it is 0.176 lower. If the Tentative Budget remained the same as last year, the Millage could have theoretically been even lower, the Roll-Back Millage.
"Even though the Millage is going down, of course, it'd be a much lower Roll-Back Millage rate," Birkett said. "So you have to advertise a tax increase because the tax is higher than the roll-back rate."
The Tentative Millage rate is a requirement to receive Florida funding and will bring in more money because of increasing property values in Alachua County. Approximately 30 percent of the funding for education services in the county comes from local taxes, the other 70 percent comes from the state, so according to Birkett, local taxes could be worse:
"You take Collier County or another county with a higher tax base, they'll receive 90 percent of their money from local taxes in order to receive 10 percent from the state."
That may account for the lack of public input, but Birkett said he hopes residents understand why they will be paying more despite the Millage decrease and do not need to be convinced it is money well spent.
"Possibly they are, or people are satisfied with the school system and the job we're doing," he said. "We like to think that's more the issue."
Although already adopted, the two tentative proposals will go before the board again September 4, 2007 for final approval.
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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