State Education Update: House & Senate Agree…
“The ‘House’ always win…”
Citrus expected now to get $92K less than last year’s budget
On Friday, April 28th, the Florida Legislators PreK-12 Education Budget Conference Committee convened. In a most unexpected move, the Senate in their first “Offer” on the budget, the Senate accepted the House position on the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) formula, closing any further negotiations on the FEFP. Bottom line is that the House’s much lower funding of schools is what will ‘again’ happen in Florida this year. (Follow this link to see the Senate Office and Meeting Pack: https://tinyurl.com/nyqnkld)
This agreement includes a ‘rollback’ of the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to 4.322 mills (down from 4.638 mills) and a reduction in the Base Student Allocation (BSA) of more than $27 per student.
What does this mean for Citrus County Schools? The House’s Budget FEFP funding proposal would decrease $92,000 (or -0.09%) from this year’s 4th budget calculation.
Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. For local school boards the state has continued over the years to increase the specific categorical spending. This current House budget includes $400 million on the controversial “Best & Brightest” teacher bonus program ($200 million), and the new controversial out of state Charter benefiting “Schools of Hope” program ($200 million). This means even if we had level funding, because of these categoricals that require local districts to only use those funds as stipulated by the Legislature we have much less funding for locally determined needs.
What concerns me now is what current programs and services as a School Board we will have to look to cut or reduce to fund for these categoricals. Many of these categoricals are ‘personal agenda pet programs’ at the state level and that continues to drive up the cost of public school education. Why again is the State Legislature telling local governments how to spend local taxpayer moneys.
It is important to remember that the State Legislature sets the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to be collected from the local property taxpayers, NOT the local school board. The local school board must then use the funds established by the State Legislature to provide the best education possible, while being good stewards of taxpayers’ moneys. Citrus County Schools has the lowest statutorily allowable education taxes in the State. Citrus does not have any additional millage rate, sales taxes or other taxing mechanism. Nearly all the surrounding counties have additional educational funding mechanisms to assist in meeting our students’ educational needs. This makes every budget and funding decision we make critical to meeting our students needs.
I believe local governments know better what our local needs are and that the State and Federal governments should reduce the number of categorical locally mandated spending. This would permit those existing dollars to flow to local communities without the need to increase the tax base. In the current budget, we have now reduced funding and increased categoricals. This makes funding challenges even hard. In private business that would be like spending more, while generating less profits. That is not a good practice.
I want to continue to thank our local State legislative representatives, Rep. Ralph Massullo, M.D. and Senator Wilton Simpson. These leaders continued to listen to local elected officials and have been working behind the scenes for our schools and community. It is sometimes difficult to clearly see the results of their labors, but please be assured they are working hard for us during these challenging times.
Much is still taking place, both on the final budget and final bills being passed. In the end, we will work to continue to provide and make decisions that are best for our students, schools and community. We must be successful because our kids are counting on us.