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Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2020 2 weeks ago

Volusia County School Board adopts $992.1 million budget

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A millage rate has also been set, and it's 3.33% higher than the rollback rate.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

The Volusia County School Board unanimously adopted a $992.1 million budget for fiscal year 2021 at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, a 7% increase from the 2020 budget, mainly attributed to the state giving Volusia $10.4 million to increase the base minimum for teachers' salaries.

The board also set a millage rate of 5.907 mills (meaning about $5.90 will be collected for every $1,000 of taxable property value), which is 3.33% higher than the rollback rate; a large portion of the total millage, known as the "required local effort" is determined by the state. This millage has steadily declined since 2016 but still accounts for 3.651 mills of the total property tax rate. 

So what does that mean for the average homeowner? According to the budget presentation, a Volusia resident whose home is assessed at $159,513 and has a $25,000 homestead exemption will pay $794.57 in taxes. Accompanying budget documents show this is an increase of $32.58 from last year. 

While the budget is set, some uncertainties cast worries for the fiscal year. 

It's too early to know how the school year will pan out, said District Chief Financial Officer Debra Muller. But, factors like the 9-day enrollment count affecting the reallocation of teacher and staffing units, money spent on personal protective equipment and a possible mid-year cut by Florida Education Finance Program funding are sources of concern. 

The district could also receive less funding for students attending Volusia Online. The FEFP allocates $5,447.73 per student enrolled in virtual learning as compared to $7,410.43 per students attending brick-and-mortar or Volusia Live, a figure that — while the legislature increased it by $40 this year — Muller said is still below where it should be.

Before the recession, in the 2007-2008 school year, the statewide base student allocation was 44,163.47. It plummeted to $3,479.22 in 2011-2012, and has increased incrementally since.

“In that same time period, we’ve seen 24% inflation and the base student allocation should really be over $5,000 per student or $843 higher than it is right now, resulting in underfunding for public education in Florida," Muller said.

With about 9,100 students enrolled in Volusia Online, the district is could see a funding difference of $17.9 million from FEPF, which isn't penalizing districts yet for this first semester. Additionally, if students don't complete their online courses, Volusia stands to lose up to $67 million in funding.

At the same time, Muller assured the board that it's not all "doom and gloom." 

“That’s the big piece of virtual is that the students have to complete or receive credit for their courses for us to get funding, period," Muller said. "That’s more of a risk, I think, at this point, but we don’t know who will be coming back to brick and mortar next semester.”

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