School District officials hold town hall on tax request

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Indian River County School District Chief Financial Officer Carter Morrison said Thursday that without passage of the district’s proposed tax increase next year’s budget will start off $5.2 million in the red.

Morrison was speaking at a town hall put on by the school district to provide information about the Nov. 2 ballot referendum requesting a 25 cent per thousand dollar of assessed property value tax increase to help officials stem a projected budget shortfall.

Morrison explained that with so many budgetary factors still to be determined — such as Amendment 8 that could provide some cushion by easing the state-mandated size of school classrooms — the starting deficit figure could go even higher.

“There are many unknowns,” he said. “That number could grow overnight.”

If the tax referendum does pass, it is expected to raise $3.59 million dollars that would still keep the school district in the red, but by a more manageable $1.9 million.

In breaking down the $3.59 million that would be raised by the tax, the district has said it would spend $1.8 million on teaching positions, $1.3 million on science text books, $341,000 in state mandated charges and provide the rest to charter schools.

One of the issues Morrison is grappling with is that the district will no longer receive federal dollars Washington provided after the recession hit and Tallahassee came up short in its education budget. Last year Indian River County received $8.8 million in stimulus money to keep teachers and other employees on the job.

However, the federal spigot has not run completely dry. The School District of Indian River County will be receiving in the next budget a one-time $3.6 million cash infusion, according to district officials.

According to figures supplied by the district, a home valued at $134,600 after the homestead exemption would pay an extra $33.65 if the tax increase is passed by county voters. The district broke that figure down even further and said it amounts to 65 cents per week.

One local teacher sitting with about 30 students in attendance at the town hall, told school officials they had missed a golden marketing opportunity.

“We should have T-shirts made up that read, ‘Am I worth 65 cents a week?'” she said.

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