Sumter School Board To Decide on Tax Hike Amid COVID-19 Challenges

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Village News | Meta Minton | July 26, 2020

The Sumter County School Board will decide Tuesday on a tax increase while navigating the Coronavirus crisis and battling declining state funding.

A public hearing on the proposed tax increase will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 28 at the Sumter County School District Board room in Bushnell. A decision on the proposed tax increase and the budget will be made at this hearing, according to the school board.

The total budget for 2020-21 is a little more than $151.5 million, said School Superintendent Richard Shirley.

This 2020-21 proposed tax levy is $82.2 million. A portion of the tax levy has increased by 1.02 percent and represents approximately six-tenths of the total proposed tax.

Last year’s tax levy was $77.2 million.

“With several new Legislative requirements and years of declining revenue through the Florida Education Finance Program, it is a challenging time to meet the needs of our students and our staff,” Shirley said.

In the recently concluded school year, the schools successfully navigated the sudden disruption of the Coronavirus, but there are challenges ahead.

“During the 2019-2020 school year, our country, state, county, and schools were drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked with our local and state health officials to provide the healthiest and safest learning environment for our students and staff,” Shirley said.

Wildwood Elementary staffers don masks as part of the precautions with regard to COVID-19. The crew was making sure students were being provided with meals during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Teachers and students transitioned to distance learning to finish the school year with the statewide assessments canceled. Spring sports and academic competitions were also canceled. Schools celebrated the end of the year with-drive through awards and modified graduations.

Modified drive-through graduation ceremonies became a reality at Sumter County schools due to the Coronavirus.

School is set to restart on Aug. 17, but the school board is surveying parents about potentially moving the start back to Aug. 20 or 25.

The five-member school board is currently down to four members due to the recent suicide of school board member Jennifer Boyett.