As was expected, the Escambia County School Board voted tonight at a special budget meeting to tentatively increase the total millage rate for Escambia County property owners to 7.86 dollars per $1,000.00 in taxable value from 7.72 dollars per $1,000.00 in taxable value last year.
The rationale for the increase is that the State has tinkered with the funding formula, requiring Escambia County to raise a greater portion of our budget locally. This is a true statement, as Tallahassee increased our Required Local Effort (RLE) portion of the millage substantially this year over last.
Also, our Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) budget has been slashed 87% since 2006.
The need for money to operate the district is real--as our overall budget has shrunk nearly $42 Million in one year--from $638 Million last year to $595 Million this year.
But Taxpayers, property owners, small businesses, and all others that contribute taxes to our budget are hurting now, too.
I'm proud of the way the Board has slashed the budget in response to the economic downturn last year. We cut the budget, closed schools, and increased student achievement. I'm convinced we can do it again this year and we will--I'd just like to look after our boss's (taxpayers) interest at the same time where possible, that's all.
I felt that we needed to hold the line and not increase tax rates-but I was obviously alone in that opinion.
My issue at tonight's meeting was that I wanted to present ideas to my fellow board members about how to maintain our service to students (as we have been) while holding property owning Escambia County taxpayers harmless in this budget mess by keeping their millage rates steady at last year's rate of 7.72 mills.
The plan I presented is sound-but I was unable to convince my fellow board members that it could be done. So, the tentative budget passed by a 4-1 vote--with me voting no.
The final budget meeting will be at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, September 15th 2009. At that time, these proposed tentative millage rates will be finalized. I will vote as I did tonight, to not raise tax rates during this recession--however I feel that I will once again be at the bottom of a 4-1 vote.