The Pasco County School Board has given first-round approval to a proposed $1.2 billion budget that includes a slightly lower tax bill for homeowners.
Under the proposed rate, the owner of a $125,000 home, after deducting the homestead exemption, would pay $677.30 in taxes. That’s $33.60 lower than the homeowner paid last year.
School board members voted unanimously for the proposed budget, but won’t take final action on the proposed rate until a second and final hearing, set for 6 p.m., on Sept. 13. That hearing will be in the School Board Meeting Room, at 7227 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
While the budget has received first-round approval, school board members Steve Luikart and Alison Crumbley said there need to be some changes.
“It is a work in progress,” Luikart said.
“We’re identifying some of the areas that we have needs in,” he said, noting he was in a meeting with district staff to discuss how to move some funding to provide additional support for some of the district’s lower-functioning schools.
The district also needs to take action to address its graduation rate, which slipped, Luikart said.
“Those are two priorities,” he said. “We’ve got to do whatever it is that we have to change.”
It could mean adding more staff or providing some new curriculum to address the needs, he said.
“That’s something they’re looking into,” he said.
The board also has an executive session set for Aug. 16 to discuss collective bargaining.
“We’re still trying to get the highest percentage we can, for our employees,” he said. “We’re one of the only counties left in the state that has a total health package that the district picks up.”
Sometimes there’s a push for a bigger salary increase, but Luikart said he’d rather go with a lesser percent increase, in order to preserve the health benefits.
School Board member Alison Crumbley said it’s imperative that the district’s budget reflect the needs of the students within the classrooms of the district’s 21 D schools.
The school grades came out after much of the budget had already been put into place, so the district is now looking at things that need to be redirected, Crumbley said.
The budget’s proposed general fund is around $596 million. That’s $21.6 million more than it was last year, representing a 3.77 percent increase.
This school year, it opened Wiregrass Elementary in Wesley Chapel, and added two magnet programs at Centennial Middle and Bayonet Point Middle schools.
It also is opening two new special education centers, Achieve Center of Pasco and Achieve Center at Richey.
Other items included in the budget are a $1.6 million digital classroom allocation for computers, iPads and digital supports.
The district’s 2016-2017 budget for capital projects totals about $284 million, which is a decrease of $48.3 million, representing a drop of about 17.6 percent.
The capital project appropriations are for High School GGG, being built on Old Pasco Road, which is set to open next school year. It will open initially as a middle school and a high school on the same campus.
Elementary School B, in Bexley Ranch, is also under construction to help relieve overcrowding in Central Pasco schools.
Major remodeling also is planned at Land O’ Lakes High School, Woodland Elementary and Marchman Technical College.
The budget also includes scores of other improvement projects at schools around the district.
Published August 17, 2016