Broward County voters will have the chance to vote on a one-half mill rate increase to their ad valorem taxes on Aug. 28. This increase has been requested by the School Board of Broward County.
The question voters will see on the ballot is:
“Shall the School Board of Broward County levy an ad-valorem operating millage of one-half mills annually for fiscal years July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023 to enhance funding for school resource officers, including charter schools with more than 1,000 students, hire school security staff, providing funding to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and fund other essential instruction-related expenses to preserve important programs in public schools.”
According to a statement by the Broward School District, the Florida legislature continues to fund education at one of the lowest levels in the nation. For the fiscal year commencing on July 1, the legislature has provided an increase in the Base Student Allocation (BSA), the amount spent per child per school year, of 47 cents per student. Which, in the case of Broward County, reduced the amount of the District Cost Differential, allocating this District a decrease in the BSA of $16.75 per student.
Education funding continues to fall short of pre-recession levels while teacher and other staff salaries, employee health care costs, utility costs and the need to enhance security staff in Broward schools continues to increase. In fact, Broward County Public School District’s total new funding, including earmarks that must be used as directed by the state, is $52 per student, the lowest funding increase of all 67 counties across the State of Florida.
Because of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, next year’s budget for Broward County Public Schools includes funding for more School Resource Officers (SRO), and more access to mental health services for students.
But, the state’s categorical allocation for funding of more SRO’s falls significantly short of the funding required to provide a minimum of one SRO per school. And even though the Mental Health Categorical will enhance counseling services to our students, it falls short of providing funding to create a significant increase in the number of trained counselors, clinicians and social workers assigned to our schools.
Even though there are projected savings and non-recurring costs of approximately $12 million forecasted for the upcoming fiscal year (2018-19), new required costs such as increases in retirement and health insurance costs will exceed those savings by nearly $15 million. This means the District must find reductions to cover the $15 million before the increase of staff salaries is even considered.