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Broward budget hearing tonight; tentatively increase tax rate .25

Broward County Public Schools is holding its final budget hearing tonight for the upcoming school year. Below are the notes from the last budget hearing. The key issue is a tax increase of .25 to meet class sizes mandated by the voters. A referendum is on the Nov. 2 ballot to relax those. The meeting is tonight at 4 p.m. for the first open forum. The public budget hearing which residents of Broward can speak at starts at 5:30 p.m. Information on the meetings, how you can watch from home and how to contact your school board memebers can be found here:  Check out the budget here:

After a seven-hour debate, the Broward School Board voted to slightly increase taxes for the upcoming school year last Thursday night.

In a public hearing to approve the annual school budget as well as approve the state mandated tax rate and a critical needs tax increase of .25, the board listened to close to 50 people talk about their concerns about this year’s budget. Primarily, the Broward Teacher’s Union and teachers losing their jobs as well as those concerned about cuts to art, music and PE spoke during the meeting, pleading with members to reinstate jobs and programs.

Last year, taxes were about $743 per $100,000 in value. With the required super-majority vote, taxes will increase slightly to $763 per $100,000 in value. For the average $300,000 home, expect to pay $2,289 for the school board portion of your tax bill. (Remember, most areas in Broward have around eight different taxing entities billing their property). Some properties will see an increase in tax rates (mostly long time homeowners) while others whose property value decreased will see a decrease in the school board portion of their tax bill.

The increase came from a much-debated .25 critical needs millage rate. Initially, in the discussion, most of the board members were against the proposal for two reasons. One, not to increase taxes in a down economy, and two, because they felt the Broward Teacher’s Union was offering poor representation to its members by not agreeing to five unpaid furlough days to try to save approximately 465 jobs by generating $33 million roughly. Board members publicly said if the BTU doesn’t agree to furloughs that they would change their mind on the second vote to increase taxes. Currently, the BTU is the only union not to agree to furloughs.

For the past year, the BTU and the school board have been in battles due to major cuts to the arts, music and PE departments across the district, though board members said no school lost 100 percent of its “extras.”

During the meeting, board members said if the furlough days were approved by the union, the funds would be put towards hiring back teachers. The critical needs tax is likely to go towards meeting a state mandate to reduce class sizes to no more than 18 students up to third grade; 22 students in fourth through eighth grade and only 25 students in high school classes.

Recently, schools have been using school-wide averages, but must meet classroom averages this school year. An amendment is on the ballot this year that will ask voters to continue to allow school-wide averages. Regardless of the amendment, Broward officials say they have been working to find the $79 million required to implement the measure or face state penalties in a year where properties taxed by the school board saw a 11.3 percent drop in value.

This is only part of what they say was a $130 million shortfall this year and cuts across the board were debated during what School Board Member Stephanie Kraft said were 14 budget workshops and meetings.

Visit here to read more financial documents from the district. Included are minutes from all 14 meetings.

Budget documents for 2010-2011 can be found here. The final public budget hearing will be  on Sept. 16. The district will also have an impasse hearing with the Broward Teacher’s Union on August 31.

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Posted by Andrea Freygang on Aug 2 2010. Filed under Broward County, Featured, Fort Lauderdale, Local news, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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