PORT CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte County School Board unanimously approved a $326 million budget for the upcoming school year Tuesday night.
The budget is $24.2 million more than the amount budgeted for the 2018-2019 school year.
Of this amount, the district estimated they will spend $238.9 million, with almost $10 million going into the reserves.
At the meeting, the school board also unanimously approved the millage rate of 7.14 mills per $1,000 of taxable value of your home, an increase of 0.792 from last year’s rate of 6.348 mills.
"The increase is totally made up of our voter-approved referendum," said the school district's Chief Financial Officer Greg Griner.
If you’re a full-time resident, and receive homestead exemption, $25,000 will be taken off the value of your home to calculate the school tax you will pay. For example, someone with a home valued at $200,000 can expect to pay $1,249.50 in school taxes this year, after the exemption. For a home of this value with the exemption, taxpayers can expect to see a $158.40 increase from what they paid last year.
"Historically, we are dependent on those local property taxes compared to other districts who get more of their funding through the state," Griner said.
At each school board meeting, there is an opportunity for residents to comment on agenda and non-agenda items.
One resident, Joe Williams, of Punta Gorda took the opportunity to voice his opinion on the increases.
"It doesn't seem like we can keep going with higher budgets and higher taxes year-after-year," he told the board. "This is unsustainable. Where are we going to be in three to four years when the referendum is up for renewal?"
He asked the board to consider 'trimming the fat' on district spending, before they consider increasing the overall budget or millage rate.
Ultimately, both the budget and the millage rate were unanimously approved for the upcoming year.
The district will receive an additional $18.8 million in revenue per year from the millage tax referendum. The referendum, which was passed in November added an additional $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of a homeowner’s property.
The majority of the referendum dollars, $12.5 million will be spent on staff salary and benefits, $566,000 on ESE liaisons and behavioral specialists, $480,900 on social workers and psychologists, $445,000 on security, $402,000 on paraprofessionals. Additional dollars will go toward art and music programs, athletics, workforce programs, professional development, division of learning initiatives, and charter school payments.
"I know the mills are going up a little," said school board member Cara Reynolds "It's a huge investment for our kids and education."
Chairman Bob Segur agreed with Reynolds, adding, "I'm proud to be a member of a community that will step up to the plate for our children."