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Monday, Oct 20, 2014
Education

Hillsborough school tax rate poised to dip slightly

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TAMPA - The recovery in local property values is bringing some good news to Hillsborough taxpayers, with a preliminary schools budget reflecting a lower tax rate for county homeowners.

The Hillsborough County School Board presented its proposed $2.8 billion budget for 2013-14 on Tuesday, roughly the same as the last year's initial budget figure, although the final numbers on 2012-13 spending have not yet been finalized.

School officials said 94.5 percent of the money is spent on school-level services. District services such as human resources and payroll administration consume 4 percent of the budget, with general administrative costs totalling 1.5 percent.

Under the proposed tax rate, the owner of a home in the county valued at $250,000 with a homestead exemption of $25,000 would pay $1,345 in school taxes, down from $1,378 for 2012-13. That's partly because of an increase of nearly $4 billion in property values in the county, from $65.8 billion this year to $69.7 billion next year.

The lower tax rate is reflected in what is known as the "millage rate," or the amount a taxpayer pays per $1,000 of value of the home. The School Board has lowered that rate from 7.877 to 7.69.

But at least one board member took issue with the inability of the board to lower the rate further. The state Legislature sets a minimum tax level each district must assess if they want to collect the maximum amount of state funding; Hillsborough would forego $922 million in state funding if it did not tax at at least that level.

Board member Stacy White said if he had "true control over this taxation process, I would not be supporting this rate."

He said he wanted the tax rate lowered to a level that would result in the district raising the same amount of tax revenue year-to-year, which is slightly lower than the rate the district is actually proposing.

White cast the single "no" vote in a series of procedural votes on the budget, with seven of eight votes being unanimous. Another public hearing on the budget is set for 5 p.m. Sept. 10 at district headquarters, 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Also Tuesday, the School Board named a series of new administrators, including three new principals for the coming school year.

Joshua Hodges, an assistant principal at Woodbridge Elementary, was named principal of Essrig Elementary. Amy Lusk, an assistant principal at Buchanan Middle, was named principal at Barrington Middle. Melanie Cochran, an assistant principal at Bevis Elementary, was promoted to principal of that school.

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7834

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