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School budget grows as millage drops

With healthy growth in the countywide tax base, and in the taxable value of homes, local property owners will see their school tax millage drop significantly, even as the district receives more money to fund its schools.

With a nearly $620 million growth, or better than 24 percent growth in the taxable value of the district, from $2.52 billion last year to $3.14 billion in the fiscal year that began July 1, the state has lowered the required lower effort that it sets from 2.806 to 2.259 mills. 

The Basic Discretionary millage remains at 0.7480 and the Capital Outlay millage at 1.000 mills, as well as the additional 0.500 mills in operating funds, approved by voters. The operating levy will be up for renewal by votes on Nov. 8, and if it passes, will run through June 30, 2028.

This means that the overall millage will be dropping from 5.054 mills to 4.507 mills, or by about 11 percent.

“The required lower effort drops as property values increase,” said Shannon Venable, the district’s finance director. “It’s set by the state, and we’re required to levy that amount to take part in the Florida Education Finance Program.

The school will be able to reap about $13.6 million in property tax revenues, about $1.4 million more than it did last year.

This will form a large chunk of a roughly $30.67 million budget, about $4 million more than the $26.58 million last year.

A big reason for this growth has been the district receiving just under $5.3 million in federal COVID-related funds, through the CARES Act, the American rescue Plan and ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds.

Venable said exact numbers on expenditures are estimates. “We are still staffing for the current year, so payroll expenditures have only tentatively been decided.  We have not concluded collective bargaining for this year on wages either,” she said.

“We also know that we must prepare for the $15 minimum wage that goes into effect on Oct. 1.  Our health insurance premium cost went up as well as the district’s required FRS (retirement) contributions.”

The end of the upcoming fiscal year on June 30, 2023 will also see the final payment on the multi million loan that was used to build the Franklin County Schools campus.

Voters in November will also face the in November to institute a new half-cent sales tax,  which if passed would mean Franklin would join 25 other districts in Florida that currently levy the tax, which is limited to capital purposes, such as construction and technology. 

If approved, collection of the half-cent tax would begin Jan. 1, 2023, and terminate on Dec. 31, 2042. Estimates are the tax would bring in to the district in the neighborhood in excess of $1.2 million annually. The ABC School would also receive a proportionate portion of these funds.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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