Pinellas County School Board Public Hearing – Budget 8/1/23

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Welcome to the first two public hearings on the 2023-2024 budget for the Pinellas County School Board. Tonight, we will review the proposed property tax rates and budget for the upcoming school year. We value the feedback from the public and will take your comments into consideration when making final decisions on the millage rates and budget. As required by state statutes, we must follow specific directions during this meeting. We appreciate your cooperation with the process.

Public Comment Portion

Before we begin, please note that there will be two opportunities for public comment during this meeting. The first opportunity is to comment on the proposed millage rates, and the second opportunity is to comment on the proposed budget. If you wish to speak, you must register separately for each part of the hearing with our staff at the entrance of the boardroom.

Tentative Budget and Final Public Hearing

Following tonight’s hearing, the school board will continue to review the tentative budget. Changes may be made to reduce millage rates prior to or during the final public hearing, which is scheduled for September 12th, 2023. It is important to note that the millage rate set tonight cannot be raised higher than the tentative rate. We appreciate your presence tonight and look forward to hearing your views.

Motion to Adopt the Agenda

At this time, a motion is made by Ms. Cook and seconded by Ms. Meyer to adopt the agenda for this meeting.

Opening Remarks by Mr. Hendrick

Mr. Hendrick, a member of the school board, makes introductory comments before the budget presentation and public comments. He expresses gratitude for the engagement and interest of the board members in formulating the budget plan for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. He mentions that the budget is closely tied to the school district’s strategic plan and discusses the detailed budget presentation from the June 27th workshop. He further emphasizes the importance of examining all aspects of the budget as student enrollment is finalized in the upcoming weeks.

Presentation by Mr. Smith

Mr. Smith acknowledges the appearance of the school district’s truth and military ad in the Tampa Bay Times and explains that the format for the newspaper ad and the order of tonight’s hearing presentations are prescribed by chapter 200 of the Florida Statutes. He mentions that based on the board’s actions tonight, the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office will send out proposed tax notices to indicate the time and place of the final public hearing on millage and budget.

Millage Presentation by Samantha Chastain

Samantha Chastain, the manager of budget and cost reporting, presents the millage rates for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. The millage is comprised of the general operating millage, the required local effort millage, discretionary millage, local referendum millage, and the millage for capital outlay. She explains that a mill refers to the rate of property tax paid on the assessed value of homes and business properties. The proposed millage rate for the upcoming year is 5.938, which represents a decrease of 0.42% compared to the previous year’s rate. Chastain mentions that Pinellas County’s gross property tax value has increased by 12.2%, resulting in an increase in property tax revenue. She provides details on the increases in revenue generated by the required local effort, discretionary, and referendum millages.

Impact on Homeowners

Chastain explains that the proposed millage rate will result in the owner of a $200,000 home, after deducting the $25,000 homestead exemption, paying approximately $1,039.15 in school taxes. She emphasizes that the increase in property value may lead to an increase in school taxes for some homeowners. However, she notes that this example does not consider the benefits of the three percent save our homes cap. Chastain concludes her presentation by stating that the required local effort millage is set by the Florida Department of Education and is used for day-to-day operations, while discretionary and referendum millages are used for general operations and specific programs within the school district. The capital outlay millage is the primary funding source for maintenance, renovations, new construction, and equipment.

Public Comments

After the budget presentation, members of the public are given an opportunity to share their concerns and opinions. Bronson Odechoff expresses his concerns about the increasing tax revenue, despite the decrease in millage rates. He explains the compounding effect of these tax increases and urges the school board to be mindful of the financial burden on taxpayers. Mark Clutho raises concerns about the lack of transparency in the process and questions why the meeting is not televised. He also criticizes the allocation of funds for capital outlay projects.

Approval of Tentative Discretionary Local Effort Millage

The board proceeds to discuss and vote on the approval of the tentative discretionary local effort millage. A motion is made by Mrs. Peters and seconded by Ms. Cook to approve the levying of a tentative discretionary local effort millage of 0.748 mills. The motion is passed unanimously.

Adoption of the Tentative Total Millage Rates

The board moves on to the adoption of the tentative total millage rates. A motion is made to adopt a tentative millage rate of 5.938 mills for the required local effort, discretionary local effort, local referendum, and capital outlay. The motion is passed unanimously.

In conclusion, the Pinellas County School Board held a public hearing on the proposed budget and millage rates for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. The board listened to public comments and approved the tentative millage rates. The final public hearing is scheduled for September 12th, where the board will make any necessary changes to the budget and millage rates. The school district aims to balance the financial needs of the district while considering the impact on taxpayers in Pinellas County.

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