Bradenton Herald | By Giuseppe Sabella | July 22, 2021
The Manatee County School Board will soon vote on upcoming tax rates, along with a proposed budget that totals more than $1 billion.
On Tuesday morning, the School Board voted 3-0 to advertise the school district’s proposed millage levies and budget for 2021-2022, opening the floor to public input ahead of the next meeting on July 27.
Vice-Chair James Golden was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, and the fifth seat is currently vacant after the resignation of former board member Scott Hopes, who now works as the administrator for Manatee County Government.
At their next meeting, board members will hear from public speakers and then vote on the tax proposals, which total 6.876 mills — a slightly lower rate than last year.
A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 on a home’s taxable value, meaning a home’s assessed value minus the homestead exemption or other exemptions a homeowner may have.
If board members were to approve the school district’s proposal, that would mean taxpayers owe $6.876 for every $1,000 on their homes’ taxable value.
And though the current proposal is lower than last year, when the School Board levied 6.972 mills, the district would still collect millions of dollars more in the upcoming fiscal year.
That was due to Manatee County’s rising population and home values, said Tim Bargeron, the associate superintendent of finance for the school district.
The district’s actual property tax levy in the previous year was just over $309.5 million. According to the new proposal, this year’s property tax levy would be more than $327 million, an increase of about $17 million.
“The levy would be the increased property value times that lower millage rate,” Bargeron said.
This year’s millage rate dropped because of Florida’s lower “required local effort.” Every year, the Legislature requires school boards to levy a certain amount in order to receive millions of dollars in state funding, and the mandated rate has continually dropped since at least 2017.
The required local effort in 2017-18 was 4.36 mills, a higher rate compared to the 3.724 mills required in the previous school year.
That rate further dropped this year, while the other millage levies remain unchanged in the school district’s current proposal:
- Required local effort, 3.628 mills.
- Local capital improvement (also known as capital outlay), 1.5 mills.
- Discretionary operating, .748 mills.
- Voter-approved increase on property taxes, 1 mill.
The 1.5 mill tax for capital outlay would generate approximately $68.5 million. Among other things, capital projects include construction, maintenance, and renovations, along with the purchase of books, vehicles, furniture, band uniforms and technology.
“The biggest portion of the millage rate is the required local effort, and the local School Board can’t do anything about it,” Bargeron said.
A $1 BILLION BUDGET
The proposal also includes a tentative budget worth $1,053,806,564, a noticeable increase over last year’s budget of approximately $879 million.
The bump comes during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic caused financial uncertainty throughout the state. But it was the pandemic, Bargeron said, that led to much of the new funding.
Under the $97 million line for federal funding, the district logged tens of millions of dollars from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, a form of federal COVID-19 relief.
That line also includes Title I funds and other federal dollars that schools receive every year, Bargeron continued.
“We always get some federal funds, but not to that level,” he said.
Further boosting the budget for 2021-2022, the School Board agreed last year to borrow up to $100 million for big construction and renovation projects.
District leaders wanted to start big projects in the near future, saving money in the long run by avoiding inflation and the cost of maintenance at aging buildings.
Bargeron also noted that Manatee’s current 1.5-mill rate for capital outlay projects would cover the repayment of that debt over time.
“That will never result in a tax increase,” he said.
THE PUBLIC HEARING
When: July 27 at 5 p.m.
Where: The Walter E. Miller School Support Center, 215 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Written public comments: Submit a comment in advance by emailing email@example.com.
In-person public comments: To address the board directly, sign up in person before the start of the meeting or register in advance by visiting manateeschools.net.
Livestream: School board meetings are broadcast live onSpectrum Channel 646 and Frontier Channel 39, along with the Manatee Schools Television website, mstv.us.