23 Jul Santa Rosa Schools Deal With Lowest State Funding (CA)July 23, 2010
By: Carmen PaigeSource: PNJ
<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 23
–>The Santa Rosa County School District has some good items in next year’s $282 million budget despite its per student funding being the lowest in Florida.
"For the second year, we are 67th out of 67 districts," said Susan McCole, accounting supervisor, at Thursday’s board meeting.
Santa Rosa’s per student funding next year is $6,397, $439 lower than the state average.
"If we were funded the same as Escambia County, it would mean $7.4 million more," said McCole. "If we were funded the same as Okaloosa County, it would mean $6.6 million more."
One factor in the funding is the district cost differential, which is based upon Florida’s cost-of-living guide. It is determined by comparing the cost of counties’ goods and services.
"According to their calculations, I guess we are the cheapest place to live in the state," said McCole. "It is less to provide an education for our kids than others in the state."
Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said he would like to see a regional district cost differential.
"I know that would not be popular (with some other Florida school districts)," he said.
The Gulf oil spill is a big unknown in the budget, McCole said. The district’s tax roll amount — all property subject to taxes — has dropped from $8.9 million last year to an estimated $8.5 million.
"We don’t know how much it will go down because of the oil spill and talk of some property values going down," she said.
The good news is expenditures last year were not as costly as anticipated, McCole said.
"Electricity did not go up as much, and we put back $800,000," she said. "We have cut the fuel budget by $950,000. Last month, we received an unexpected $1.5 million in property taxes."
Money-saving steps taken over the last few years are making a difference, said Diane Coleman, board chairwoman.
"With cutting off lights and shutting down computers and other cost-saving measures we have taken, we have seen a decrease in expenditures," she said.
As Karen Houser, a Spanish teacher at Jay High School, listened to the budget presentation and ways the district had saved money, she believed a merit pay increase could be given.
After last school year, board members agreed the district no longer could afford to provide automatically the recurring expense and will re-evaluate it annually.
"Based on what I heard and saw, they have enough money for (the raise)," she said.
Teachers are in negotiations for a new contract.
Houser questioned board members recently agreeing to a 1.8 percent pay hike for administrators.
"That raise was retroactive (for last year)," she said. "I feel cheated."
There has not been a year when administrators have received more than teachers, Wyrosdick said.
"I have administrators who, after three years with no raise, I felt deserved the same as the teachers received," he said.
That raise cost $102,000, Wyrosdick said.