The Pasco County School Board has proposed a $1.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2022-2023.
The general operating budget increased from $734.5 million to $848.6 million. The capital budget of $455 million represents an increase of $116 million over the current fiscal year.
Superintendent Kurt Browning outlined some key expenses that are part of the proposed budget.
Browning said the district will receive additional state funding of $57.2 million, to accommodate projected growth of 3,588 students and also for recurring expenses.
That $57.2 million includes:
- $4.9 million for retirement increases
- $3 million for health insurance increases
- $3.2 million for voluntary prekindergarten expansion, and increasing costs for utilities, fuel, materials and supplies, and an increase in its costs for School Resource Officer contracts
- $7.7 million for an increase of 115 school staff positions
- $1.4 million for allocations needed for the opening of Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation and for allocations associated with Angeline 6-12 Academy, now under construction
- $6.8 million to continue to increase the minimum base salary for full-time classroom teachers • $9.8 million to raise minimum district salaries to $15 per hour
- $2.3 million for guest teachers; and, other funds for employee salaries to be negotiated with the union
No new district-level staff allocations are included in the budget.
The capital budget includes:
- The renovation of Hudson High
- The construction of a new Gulf High School
- The construction of Angeline 6-12 Academy
- A new classroom wing at Starkey K-8
- Cafeteria renovations, replacement of HVAC systems and infrastructure upgrades at various schools
Funding up, but required spending up, too
Before requesting the board to approve the tentative budget, Browning addressed what he described as “some recent social media chatter regarding excess funds, or funding the district has received over last year’s budget.”
The issue is important because the school board is asking voters for a yea or no vote on whether to levy an additional tax, not to exceed 1 mil, beginning July 1, 2023 and ending no later than June 30, 2027, to support increased salaries for teachers, bus drivers and other non-administrative district employees.
Voters will decide the issue during the Aug. 23 Primary Election.
Browning asked Kevin Shibley, assistant superintendent for administration, “to provide our board and the public with some additional, factual, information that will bring clarity into these recent, misleading, statements.”
Shibley responded: “We know that there has been some comments on social media about the district having plenty of excess, recurring funds, to provide salary increases — not needing a referendum for salaries.”
In essence, Shibley said, the claims are that the district has about $114 million in new money it could use for employee salary increases and would not need a referendum to increase pay.
“I wanted to take a minute to kind of walk the board through this, because I think it’s a perfect example of when $114 million is not $114 million,” Shibley said.
He then broke down the numbers, addressing the categories of expenditures the district must make based on state mandates; increasing costs the district must fund; and expenses the district will need to assume because federal funds provided for COVID-19 relief no longer will be available.
Whenever the district receives increased funding from the state, “a big chunk of that” must be spent for specific purposes, known as categorical spending, Shibley said.
Also, some money comes through the district, but immediately goes back out again, in the form of scholarship payments required by the state, he said.
He cited the example of Family Empowerment Scholarships.
“This is something that hit the district really hard. Last year, the state changed the way that they processed private and homeschool scholarships for students. Instead of paying those scholarships out of a separate bucket at the state level, they are funneling those scholarships through the district.
“So, you will see that we are paying out almost $34 million in scholarships. So, it’s basically the money is coming in on the right hand and immediately it’s going out the door with the left hand,” he said.
Also, while the district received funding increases in some categories, the increases fall far short of the district’s actual expenses, Shibley said.
For instance, there was a $2.9 million increase in transportation funding, he said.
But, according to Betsy Kuhn, the assistant superintendent for support services, state funding for transportation services is roughly half of what it costs to transport the district’s students.
Each 1% in employee raises costs $4.7 million
While the district received more money, most of it cannot be spent to increase employee salaries, Shibley said.
Specifically, the district is facing a state requirement for increased retirement contribution rates for all employees; it must pass along growth dollars to charter schools; and, it has to pay higher costs for software licenses, utility bills, fuel costs and so on, Shibley said.
Other costs include meeting the $15 minimum wage requirement and hiring additional teachers to abide by class size requirements.
Plus, the district will absorb about $10 million in costs that had been paid through the federal government’s COVID relief funds, he said.
In essence, the required spending and increasing costs add up to about $100 million, leaving the district with about $14 million for additional salary increases for employees, Shibley said.
“When you consider that it costs about $4.7 million to give a 1% salary increase to the district’s employees, that means after the teacher salary increase and the minimum wage, we do have enough for an additional 3% increase,” he said.
“I think you’re seeing that the board is budgeting and they’re planning for moderate salary increases for employees, but it is nowhere near the level that is going to catch us up with our surrounding districts,” Shibley said.
Browning told the board: “I thought it was important that we would share publicly, what the real numbers are. A huge portion of what’s on this list that he provided to you is what the state tells us we will and we shall spend, out of money they send to us.”
School board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong thanked district staff for presenting the numbers, which she said offers transparency to the public.
The school board will have its final public hearing on the budget on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m., in the school board meeting room at the district’s administrative complex, 7227 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
Pasco County Schools budget
Total budget for 2022-2023: $1.7 billion; an increase of $251.8 million, or 17.1%
General fund operating budget: $848.6 million
Capital projects budget: $455 million.
Total tax millage for the 2022-2023 fiscal year: 5.516 mils, a decrease of .294 mils
Under the proposed rate, the homeowner of a $175,000 home, assuming a $25,000 property tax homestead exemption, would pay $44.10 less per year than last year.
Source: Pasco County Schools
Published August 03, 2022