Total millage rate of 7.763 percent is a 5.66 percent increase over the rolled back rate from last year
With no comments from audience members during a public hearing on the evening of Sept. 15, the Sarasota County School Board approved its 2016 Fiscal Year budget of $738,367,826, which reflects an increase of about 5 percent over its 2015 fiscal year spending plan.
Board member Caroline Zucker made all the motions and board member Jane Goodwin seconded all of them as the board approved its FY 2016 millage rates along with the budget. The total millage is 7.763, a 5.66 percent increase compared to last year’s rolled back millage rate, according to material provided at the meeting, which was held at the School Board’s facilities in The Landings in Sarasota.
The “rollback” level is the millage rate that would be applied to prevent any increase to taxpayers. The total value of the School Board’s property rose 7.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to figures provided by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office. The total value for tax purposes this year is $50,265,801,619, compared to $46,859,575,617 on June 1, 2014.
The School Board’s Required Local Effort millage rate, set by the state, is 4.515 mils for FY 2016, a 5.52 percent increase from last year’s rolled back rate. The capital millage is at the state maximum of 1.5 mils; the revenue it brings in can be used only for major capital acquisitions, maintenance and repairs and payments for loans, according to state law. The district’s discretionary operating millage is .748, the level at which it has remained since FY 2010.
In March 2014, county voters approved another four-year extension of a special 1 mil tax for the district. District materials provided on Sept. 15 point out that revenue from that special tax will fund 520 positions in FY 2016.
The district has allocated $1,549,100 from its unassigned fund balance to the FY 2016 budget. As of June 30, that fund had $33,514,787 in it, equivalent to 8.04 percent of the budget. Projections call for this “rainy day” account to have $34,023,043 by June 30, 2016, equaling 8.12 percent of the budget. School Board policy requires the fund maintain a balance equivalent to at least 7.5 percent of total appropriations in a given fiscal year.
As they did in FY 2015, salaries make up 58 percent of the new budget — $243,166,745, compared to the unaudited FY 2015 figure of $235,083,610. The majority of the 3.44 percent increase “is due to serving additional students in district schools,” School Board documents say.
The total district enrollment in the 2014-15 school year was 42,376, while the projection for the current year is 43,274.
Salary and benefit figures for the new fiscal year do not reflect any negotiated settlement between the district and the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association (SC/TA), a district Finance Services Department spokeswoman told The Sarasota News Leader on Sept. 16. Talks are ongoing, she said.
The estimate for employee benefits in the new budget is $81,763,221, or 11 percent of the total, compared to $71,272,507, or 18 percent of the 2015 fiscal year budget, district documents show. The majority of that 4.26 percent increase is linked to both a 10 percent rise in health insurance costs, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and the hiring of new personnel, the materials explain.
The district anticipates a 1.01 percent climb in its expenses for energy services — from $10,847,083 in FY 2015 to $10,956,156 in FY 2016. That “is related to increased use of technology and the electrical costs associated with the technology” along with transportation costs resulting from the higher number of students, the budget documents point out.
The Executive Summary accompanying the FY 2016 budget notes that through FY 2015, the district endured “seven consecutive years of operating budget reductions amounting to approximately $125 million.”
This year, only four positions were cut in preparation for the FY 2016 budget, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Al Weidner told the News Leader. All four were linked to the state decision not to continue its funding of educational programs for adults with disabilities, he explained.