Officials say Volusia unfairly loses state money.
The Volusia County School Board has set the tentative property tax rate for the coming year, and
the budget has been approved. And like every year, some feel Volusia County is short-changed because of the District Cost Differential.
The tentative millage rate is set at 7.197, which means homeowners will pay 7.197 per thousand dollars of property value if the rate holds up in a final vote by the School Board on Sept. 8. It is higher than the rolled-back rate of 7.01, which would bring in the same amount of money as last year.
The total budget is $780.6 million, compared to $776.8 million for fiscal year 2015.
Property taxes are not the only source of income for schools. The state provides a base student allocation, which is $4,154.45 per student for fiscal year 2016. This will be a little more than $192 million for the county.
District Cost Differential reduces funding
Unfortunately, the Volusia County School System does not get the entire base student allocation, because of the District Cost Differential. The state adjusts the allocation for each county, based on the cost of living.
For example, according to Dr. Robert Moll, deputy superintendent for financial and business services for Volusia County Schools, the state awards Volusia County 97 cents on the dollar because of the lower cost of living, compared with Orange County which gets the entire dollar.
Without the differential calculation, Volusia would stand to get $8 million more from the state this year. Since 2004, the total would be $120 million.
“It’s a punitive application of the formula,” Moll said. “We’re the biggest loser in the state.”
He said the cost of living is based on an analysis of the cost of goods and services from bread to automobile insurance. Moll said Volusia stays even with other counties until wages are considered.
“We don’t have the white collar, higher paying jobs,” he said.
So, the wealthy counties get more funds per student.
“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” he said.
One fallacy in the formula is that if a person drives to another county to work, their wage is factored at the place of employment. For example, if a person lives in DeLand and has a high paying job in Orlando, Orange County gets credit for the high wage.
The state assumes Volusia County has lower wages, but this theory doesn’t make it to the bargaining table in union negotiations, Moll said. Teachers expect to be paid on a comparable level with teachers around the state.
Others who have said the allocation method is unfair include State Rep. Fred Costello. He has said Volusia County should get the entire allocation.