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School budget vote set for Sept. 14

By Staff | Sep 11, 2010

The 2010-2011 Lee County school budget will go to final public hearing on Sept. 14.
On July 29, the school board tentatively approved the 2010-2011 $1.395 billion budget, which is a decrease from last year’s budget of $1.428 billion.
Board Chairman Steven Teuber said the decrease will not affect children in the classroom. He said the large majority of those cuts were made at the district level. He said they combined jobs and did not replace positions that did not need to be filled.
“The places where we don’t need to have resources we cut,” Teuber said.
Board member Jane Kuckel said the board is watching the progress of the state funding and budget very carefully, so they can adjust their budget accordingly to prevent layoffs and reduction in programs.
The budget is broken down into operating, debt services, capital, special revenue, food services and internal services.
The proposed operating fund of $733 million represents approximately 52.6 percent of the overall budget; $48 million, or 3.5 percent of the budget is for the debt service fund; the capital projects fund of $377 million represents 27 percent; the special revenue fund of $125 million is 9 percent of the budget and the internal budget of $110 million is 7.9 percent of the overall budget.
The proposed millage rate of 8.015 mills is an increase of .507 mills from the 2009-2010 rate of 7.508 mills. The proposed millage rate will raise $453 million for the county.
The increase is due to the district’s Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate from 5.260 to 5.767.
Teuber said the board is required to raise a certain amount of money in Lee County for the RLE millage levy. He said if the board does not approve the tentative 5.767 RLE millage levy, which is based on a number that is presented by the state, then the state will not “give us the allocation and portion of the sales tax dollars.”
He went on to say that if the RLE is not approved the district is not entitled to its fair share of the state tax dollars.
“They don’t want to give us an option of saying no,” he said.
If the RLE is approved it will raise $326 million for the county.
Kuckel said the biggest issue at hand is the reduction in property values, adding that it is not in recovery as they have anticipated.
“We thought by this time we would be in a restoration mode bringing back some of our art programs and other budget cuts that were made earlier,” she said.
Teuber said this year the district has the ability to take capital dollars and move them into the operating dollars due to approval from the state legislature.
“This year because of growth we are going to move it for one year only to cover for some of the short falls from the state,” he said. “The tax payers will see no difference.”
Kuckel said they are trying to be frugal right now due to the anticipation of the reduction in the budget next year.
Teuber said over the last eight years the board has never tendered an optional increase, adding that they said no wherever they were presented with the ability to do so.
He said given the current financial situation that the state of Florida is in, board members are doing the best they can do to get the district through the last year of the federal funding.
“We pay taxes and they all go to the state of Florida and then we get the money back based upon a funding formula,” he said.