School Board leader ‘might be a swing vote’ on tax hike, favors Senate Bill 6

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — School Board Chair Karen Disney-Brombach fielded numerous questions from members of the Indian River County Taxpayers Association Wednesday, many of which centered on the school district’s consideration of higher property taxes and her stance on legislation emanating from Tallahassee.

The School Board is currently discussing levying a property tax increase that would generate an estimated $3 million for the district.

“It looks like I might be a swing vote on it,” she said. “I’m not sure.” The school district has the option of instituting a .25-mill increase in property taxes for the next fiscal year. After that, any proposed increase would have to go to the voters as a referendum.

Disney-Brombach has told her fellow board members during budget workshops that the Florida Senate is assuming that all school districts will institute the increase when it figures the education portion of the state budget.

If the district doesn’t approve the .25-mill increase, the district cannot expect the state to make up the difference.

At the taxpayers’ luncheon, the board chair said the money – if approved – would be used to fund reading programs and textbooks. The district would also reserve a portion of the funds to be used in the event the district has to make mid-year budget cuts.

Disney-Brombach said she is not sure the district would need the .25-mill tax increase in the future. Instead, she said the district will need to figure out a way to operate within its new financial reality.

“This is going to be the new norm,” she said.

Disney-Brombach also faced questions regarding Florida Senate Bill 6, a proposed bill that could tie teachers’ compensation to students’ performances.

“As harsh as it sounds, the intent of the bill is good,” Disney-Brombach said, calling it a “bold move” on the part of the legislature.

She told the assembled group that part of what is missing from the discussion pertaining to Senate Bill 6 is that the bill would not affect teachers’ base salaries. Also, 50 percent of the teachers’ evaluations would be based on the learning gains of the teachers’ students.

The inclusion of the students’ performances in the teachers’ evaluations would add a level of objective data to the evaluations, which, Disney-Brombach said, are mostly subjective and can be influenced by personalities, personal relationships and other matters.

While she supports the intent of the bill, the board chair said that the language needs tweaking and that not all parts of it are good. For instance, the bill would not allow districts to compensate teachers who receive Masters or doctoral degrees.

Disney-Brombach is up for re-election this November. However, she was not invited to speak before the Indian River Taxpayers Association as a School Board candidate.

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