SARASOTA — The Sarasota County School Board approved their tentative $964 million budget for the upcoming year with a 3-2 vote.

On Thursday, the board held a meeting to vote to approve advertising. Just five days later, they met again to vote on approving the tentative rates. School Board members Eric Robinson and Bridget Ziegler voted against the budget. The final rates will be voted on during a September meeting.

Only one citizen showed up in person to speak during the public hearing regarding the tentative adoptions. He raised concerns about the speed of the votes.

However, interim superintendent Mitsi Corcoran told the resident that the only millage rate that increased, is the “required local effort,” which is given to them by the state. The district received this information Friday, July 17, she said, and only has a certain amount of time to work on the advertising and approval. The district, board chair Caroline Zucker said, works on the budget for an entire year.

This year’s tentative millage rate was approved unanimously at 6.975 mills. The millage rate is calculated at $1 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable property value. The first $25,000 of assessed value is exempt.

For example, a home with an assessed value of $200,000 can expect to pay around $1,395 for the year. This rate would be about a $6 increase from last year. This does not include property taxes from additional governments, like Sarasota County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or cities like North Port and Venice.

School board travel

The $15,000 budget allocated for out-of-county travel for school board members passed 3-2, despite the remainder of the district having travel suspended.

Board members Shirley Brown and Jane Goodwin each have a $5,000 budget for out-of-county travel, as well as board chair Caroline Zucker, who will be retiring this year.

Board members Eric Robinson and Bridget Ziegler will not receive a travel budget. Both members voted against the travel budget, due to the rest of the district having its travel suspended.

“Because we have decided to freeze all out-of-county travel for everybody except apparently for the three board members, I think that it’s important that we lead by example and lead from the top,” Robinson said. “I don’t think that’s fair to freeze the out of county travel for the entire school district, and yet have out of county travel for school board members. I think it sets a bad example and bad precedent as school board members.”

Ziegler echoed his concerns.

“We are freezing it for the entire district,” Ziegler said. “In my mind, again, leading by example, this is an opportunity to illustrate the hard decisions that are before us. I think, again, these are one of the easier ones.”

Brown said in the next year, she plans to take Florida School Board Association meetings, because she believes it’s more important than ever and talk about how districts are addressing issues they’re currently facing.

Goodwin, who was elected the president of the Florida School Board Association executive board this year, said “I will be traveling — if we ever travel again, and I’m not sure...”

“I think right now we are facing a change to public schools and public education that will change the way public schools operate, perhaps for the next 10 or 15 years,” she said, adding that it’s very important board members spend time studying and working on legislation to limit liability, and gain support for local control.

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