By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board(WCSB) set a tentative budget and millage rate during a public hearing on the afternoon of July 28, 2014.
The $112 million budget drew questions from the audience. Even though the Required Local Effort(RLE) percentage dropped slightly by .244 mills, increases in home values were likely to wipe out any savings tax payers would see on their tax bill in the the coming year as audience member Andrew Campanella pointed out to the board.
“If their home value went up the same percentage as their taxable value, by my math their taxes are going to go up,” Campanella said.
The total tentative millage for the 2014-2015 budget year is 5.491. This is a slight drop of .168 mills overall from the prior year’s budget.
Overall, the total operating budget came in around at $69 million, with a majority of that coming from local revenue. The greatest part of that in outgoing expenses is used for instructional purposes at $41 million.
The Capital Outlay proposed budget came in a little over $18 million. Food services, federal programs, Race To The Top, and debt services rounded out the rest of the proposed budget.
Campanella also questioned the board concerning increases in operations, support and district leadership numbers. Responses varied from increases in state retirement costs, gas and transportation, and insurance fees.
Board member Sharon Roberts asked for Superintendent Carlene Anderson to confirm how staffing levels had come about, and to clarify any reductions. Anderson said they had reduced district staff through attrition and non-renewal of yearly contracts. When the district became a “district of choice” Anderson said they were able to reduce the staff to student ratio, as well as being able to allow more students into core classes, reducing the need for extra teachers and classes. Anderson added that reductions in staff had come at the district level as well. “All of these reductions have come through attrition and annual contracts that have expired. No one has been laid off so to speak.”
Board member Gail Smith said there had been concerns about getting quality training in for teachers in an adequate amount of time without overloading staff schedules.
Roberts said she thought that the improved scores and “A” designation the district recently received should be attributed to those “in the classroom. They deserve the credit for the scores we have received.”
Board member Mark Davis complimented staff on improved staff training and continuing education. He said he had heard that many teachers were pleased with improvements in the more individualized plans.
The board passed the tentative budget 4-1, as well as the proposed millage rate of 5.491 in a vote of 4-1 with Roberts being the nay vote on both.
A public hearing on the finial millage and budget is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 5:15 p.m.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. To see more about upcoming meetings and events go to www.walton.k12.fl.us.
By ALICIA LEONARD