110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Volusia County Schools ready to restore staff
New principals would mean schools don't have to share-***********
By Al Everson
posted Jul 1, 2014 - 9:40:01am
For the first time in about seven years, the Volusia County School Board is cautiously upbeat about the local school system’s fiscal prospects.
The tentative optimism of the School District administration is guiding creation of the agency's 2014-15 budget. The new budget includes outlays for more personnel, along with projections of more revenues.
"Property values, as you can see, are on the rise," Deputy Superintendent Robert Moll told the School Board June 24. "That's a good thing, because finally the economy is coming out of the doldrums."
Volusia County's tax base grew by about 5.7 percent over the past year, according to the Property Appraiser's Office. The School District will now be collecting taxes on property worth a total of about $28.48 billion.
Moll said the Florida Legislature appropriated more money for public education, and those appropriations include a property-tax increase. As things now stand, pending adoption by the School Board July 22 and Sept. 9, the millage for schools will be 5.921, or $5.92 per thousand dollars of taxable value.
"We don't set the millage. The state does that," Moll said.
The Florida Legislature sets property-tax rates for each school district, or county, and mandates the school boards in each county adopt them, if they want to receive additional education funding from the state.
The School Board is eyeing a general operating budget totaling $414.4 million to educate more than 61,000 children in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
In contrast to the attrition of personnel of the past six years, Superintendent Margaret Smith is recommending the School Board approve hiring five principals for elementary schools that are now sharing principals.
Smith also recommended adding eight assistant principals, five campus advisers and two social workers, among others. She said the additional hires "are all about student achievement," and are restoring positions that were cut during years of austerity.
The School Board is also counting on more money for school construction and maintenance. For the first time since 2011, the state has allocated Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, and Volusia may receive $1.1 million.
In the Aug. 26 primary, the School Board will ask voters to approve extending another form of school funding — the half-cent sales tax for school-construction projects.
In a PowerPoint presentation to the board, Moll and other staffers expressed confidence about that vote.
"When the sales tax extension is approved," was the wording used.
If voters approve it, the referendum will keep the local-option sales tax in place for another 15 years, beginning Jan. 1, 2017.
The School Board and district administration are already making plans for spending the money to be collected by the tax, which first became effective in 2002. The tax will generate an estimated $30 million or more in revenues annually, based on past experience.
Unless the sales tax is renewed, Moll and School Planner Saralee Morrissey say the Volusia School District will be hard-pressed to pay for new schools and campus expansions, and to replace roofs and HVAC systems.
The School District has drafted a five-year plan for capital spending, and the first year of the plan, the 2014-15 fiscal year, calls for spending $116.3 million, including almost $51 million in debt service and $4 million for technology. Also, for the first time in several years, the School Board is planning to buy 27 buses, at a cost of $2.8 million.
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