School Board approves $33M budget cuts, millage rate

By Debbie Carson, Online EditorINDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Indian River County School Board approved its millage rate and a shrunken budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The $322.5 million budget is $33.1 million less than it was this fiscal year.

“We’re not having a tax increase,” said Board Chair Carol Johnson at the outset of the first of two public hearings Thursday evening. Even though the school district’s approved millage rate of 7.596 is higher than the previously approved millage of 7.040, the school board maintains that the taxes have not increased.That’s because the millage is still less than it could have been if the district chose to raise the rate to receive the same amount of money it did last year, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Carter Morrison – not counting the district’s debt service.

Millage is the amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate property taxes. Given the approved increased millage rate of 7.596 on a home valued at $200,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption (the maximum allowed for school district millage), a property owner could expect to pay $1,329.30.

However, according to a scenario provided by the district based on the depressed real estate market and decreased property values, the same property owner would pay $1,207.76 if the home’s value dropped the county’s average of 8 percent.

Only three people from the public attended – one was a student required to attend for a class assignment.

Dr. Harry Hurst, a regular at such school board functions, did not speak in favor of or in opposition to either the millage rate or the budget. Instead he asked about how the millage would impact rental and commercial properties.

Michael Degutis, deputy superintendent, told Dr. Hurst that the same millage rate applies to all properties – the only difference is the homestead exemption owner-occupied homes receive.

Dr. Hurst also asked about the district’s plans for the proposed new elementary school in North County as well as its plans for relocating Osceola Magnet when the budget’s public hearing was called.

District officials told him that neither project was included in the 2009-2020 fiscal year budget. Instead, Osceola is in the 2012 budget and the elementary school is in the 2014 budget.

School board members unanimously supported the millage rate and budget 4-0. Karen Disney-Brombach was absent from the meeting.

The second required public hearings for the millage and budget will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 at the School Board building, 1990 25th St., Vero Beach.

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