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Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Slight tax increase would pay for raises for Pasco school employees

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LAND O' LAKES - The Pasco County School Board's tentative $1 billion budget for 2013-14 includes a slight tax increase for residents and money for what would be the first pay increase for school employees in six years.

The board gave initial approval to the budget and school-tax rate at a public hearing Tuesday evening. A second and final public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 17.

The tentative tax rate for the coming year rounded to the nearest penny is $7.36 per $1,000 of taxable property value, up from about $7.34 currently. The owner of a $125,000 house, after taking the $25,000 homestead exemption, would pay $735.70 in school taxes, an increase of $1.60 over the current rate.

The local property tax provides just a portion of the school district's funding. The district also receives money from the state government, as well as the federal government and other sources.

Although the school board votes on the tax rate, in reality it has minimal say in what the rate is. State government uses a formula to determine the bulk of what each school district should levy.

The district's general fund, which pays for the day-to-day operations of schools, is $508.3 million under the proposed budget.

Even as the board gave the budget tentative approval, some details are still to be negotiated with United School Employees of Pasco. Two cost-cutting items that would save the district a total of $2.6 million must be agreed to by the union.

Also, contracts for teachers and other school employees, which would include the pay raises, are still being negotiated. The state Legislature provided money for teacher raises, but not for the other employees, such as custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others.

Superintendent Kurt Browning and the board wanted to make raises possible for those other workers, too, but to do that and balance the budget they had to use $4.3 million in non-recurring funds, something they previously had said they didn't want to do.

As has been the case in recent years, getting to a balanced budget wasn't easy and required millions of dollars in spending cuts and the elimination of more than 200 jobs districtwide. Retirements and attrition helped the district avoid layoffs.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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