School board approves $93 million budget increase

Increased taxes the result of higher property values, taxes

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FLEMING ISLAND – Another school year, another school budget increase.

The board officially passed its 2020-21 fiscal year budget last week. The final total millage rate of 6.889 was approved with a 5-0 vote as were the rest of the budgetary procedures and the school board is expecting to raise $93,298,660 as a result. Residents can expect an increase in their taxes – but it’s not because of the school board’s doing. It’s because your home is worth more now than it was last year.

“Over the last 20 years, our property values in Clay County have increased and they continue to increase,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs Susan Legutko said. “I make that point because when we talk about millage rates and why there is a tax increase…it’s important to identify that it is because of property values.”

The required local effort millage rate is 3.641 and this number comes by way of the Florida Finance Funding Program, which mandates a minimum levy that every school district must propose in their budget in order to receive state funds. This RQE millage rate will bring in nearly $50 million and the school district will receive roughly $241 million from the state as a result.

There is also a .748 basic discretionary millage rate, a 1.5 capital outlay millage rate and the additional 1 mill approved by voters two years ago. Legutko said that additional 1 mill will be used to spend $5.56 on school police and guardians, $6.1 million on school hardening, and $2 million that is transferred to the general fund to help pay for teacher insurance.

All of these rates combine to form the 6.889 final millage rate total. This total millage levy is more than the rolled back rate by 2.44%, Legutko said.

“What does this mean for our taxpayers?” Legutko asked. “Our property values went up and so our taxes went up. Property values went from $12.7 billion to $13.5 billion.”

Your taxes go up because the tax rate is being applied to a higher value – your property’s increased value this year – and if your value didn’t go up, your taxes would be the same as last year.

The final budget came in at $471,403,337, which is $5.7 million higher than the tentative budget of $465,641,696. This increase came from federal grants and roll-forward adjustment. This final budget also sees the general fund balance at 5%, which is a percentage the school board has been hoping to reach for years. That 5% equates to $15.9 million and those dollars essentially sit as an emergency-like fund.

“Based on COVID-19, there will be some adjustments but I’m hoping it won’t be significant, Legutko said. “That’s wishful thinking though. This budget seems very nice and very good but however, there will be adjustments as we move into this fiscal year. The unknowns are still there...and we can’t predict what is going to happen.”

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