Pasco County Schools’ budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year is just slightly under $2 billion.
The Pasco County School Board adopted the budget during its second public hearing, held Sept. 11.
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning provided an overview of the budget for the board and public.
The actual 2023-2024 budget amount is $1,996,021,940, which is an increase of $189,409,710 — representing a 10.5% increase, Browning said.
That budget includes all funding types, not just locally generated revenue, the superintendent noted.
“The total tax millage for the 23-24 fiscal year is 6.449 mills. That’s an increase of .933 mills,” Browning said.
Without the 1 mill voter-approved tax to improve salaries for teachers and non-administrative personnel, the district’s tax rate would have been lower by .67 mills, the superintendent added.
One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.
Browning said a homeowner of a $350,000 home, taking into account a $25,000 homestead exemption, would pay $2,096 in taxes. That represents an increase of $303 over last year.
The superintendent offered this rundown on the budget. It includes:
- A general operating budget of nearly $997.1 million, of which $53 million is from the voter-approved 1 mill increase.
- A capital budget of $520 million
The operating budget is increasing from $850 million to $997 million, and the capital budget is decreasing by $14 million, Browning said.
He noted the district received $59 million more in state funding, to accommodate a projected growth of 3,479 students and recurring expenses.
He then detailed how some of that $59 million will be spent.
Approximately $11 million will be set aside for charter schools, which are public schools, he said.
About $8 million is set aside for Family Empowerment Scholarships, which the state uses to provide scholarships to private schools.
Other expenses being paid with the additional state funding include $7 million for Florida Retirement System increases, $3 million for health insurance increases, and $3 million for software licenses, utilities and School Resource Officer contract increases.
The 2023-24 budget also includes an increase of 158 school allocations, for an increase of $12 million, Browning said.
He also noted: “There were no increased allocations at the district office, at the district level.”
Additionally, there’s an increase of $1.4 million for allocations and operating costs for the opening of Angeline Academy of Innovation, which opened in August, and for Kirkland Ranch K-8 school, which will open in August 2024.
Browning attributed the decrease in the district’s capital budget to a spending down of bond proceeds on construction projects.
He listed these major capital projects:
- Completion of the construction of Gulf High School
- Completion of construction of Kirkland Ranch K-8 school
- Completion of the Starkey Ranch K-8 wing
- Completion of the Angeline Academy athletic complex
- Major renovations of West Zephyrhills Elementary School and Pasco High School
Other capital projects include: Marchman Technical College structural and roofing construction, infrastructure upgrades at various schools and HVAC system replacements.
Speakers at the public hearing urged the board to cut back on spending. They said they and other property owners simply can’t afford the increases.
School board member Cynthia Armstrong noted that the voter-approved tax increase is intended to help the district deal with a persistent problem.
“The whole reason for the salary referendum — the reason it was voted (approved) by over 60% of the voting population was because they saw the need for us to improve the salaries of our non-administrative people, because we were not competitive with the surrounding counties.”
Browning noted: “I’ll be the first to admit and maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, but I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t like the (tax) increase I saw on my house. I did not like it.
“But I will tell you that I know that the increase for the teacher salaries was certainly needed. I voted for it. It was certainly needed in order for us to stay competitive and to continue to have great teachers in our classroom. And, we are getting teachers from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties,” he said.
Published September 20, 2023