By ASHLEY AMASON
The 2009-10 budget and millage rates were finalized at the Sept. 15 Walton County School Board (WCSB) meeting. Chief Financial Officer Jim McCall presented the $98,312,438 budget to the board, an almost 15-percent decrease from last year’s budget of $115,209,697.
The required (local effort) millage rate increased from 1.782 last year to 2.183 this year, an increase of 9.9 percent.
An audience member and Walton County property owner asked why the millage rate increased, saying, “We’re being taxed and insured to death…you are breaking the backs of the property owners.”
McCall explained if the school board refused to enforce the state-mandated required (local effort) millage rate, all state and local funding would be cut-off until such time as the board enforced the increase. The discretionary millage rate, which the board decides whether or not to levy, increased from .542 mills last year to .748 mills this year. However, the WCSB chose not to levy the extra quarter-mill as authorized by the state in response to decreased revenues. The Walton County School District is one of only nine districts in the state not levying the extra quarter-mill.
Board member Mark Davis stated, “The state of Florida doesn’t do what is necessary to fund public services.”
In public comments, Timothy Brooks addressed the issue of an “out-of-control bus-driver,” bus number 08-02. Brooks claimed the driver is inconsistent in her discipline, as well as reckless. Brooks said he has written letters regarding the bus driver’s reckless driving for the past two years, including the most recent event in which she allegedly slammed on brakes to get students’ attention, injuring two children’s necks and one child’s eye. Brooks said she almost T-boned his vehicle at a stop sign, and often pulls into the opposite lane of traffic to drop-off/pick-up students.
“I’m not asking for [her] to be terminated, but someone has to step up and take action before another tragedy happens,” said Brooks.
Superintendent Carlene Anderson told Brooks, “I want you to know your comments give me grave concern,” and asked to speak with him and any other concerned parents at their earliest convenience.
Before adjourning, the board unanimously agreed to advertise for architectural and engineering services for a new Walton High School athletic field complex, and tentatively set the date for the Emerald Coast Middle School Groundbreaking Ceremony Sept. 28 at 10 a.m.
By ASHLEY AMASON