Members of the Hernando County School Board approved a more than $510 million budget for fiscal 2023-2024 that covers operating costs for the Hernando County School District. To the homeowner (with a home valued at $200K with homestead exemption), the property taxes to set to fund the school district budget could represent more than $1,000 on the 2023 tax bill.
During their Sept. 5 meeting, Hernando School District Budget Director Kendra Sittig told the panel that the total proposed final budget, including fund balance and transfers, is $510,227,517, which is $39,362,061 higher than the actual total budget of $470,865,456 for 2022-2023. The total millage rate set for FY 2023-2024 is 6.34. This is a 27.57 percent increase over the roll-back rate, which is the rate where revenues yielded would be equal to the previous fiscal year’s tax revenues. “The total proposed millage rates as advertised are $12.3 million more than last year,” said Director of Finance Joyce McIntyre.
According to Sittig, the total budget represents revenue from the general fund, food service fund, special revenue fund, Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) grant funds, debt service fund, and capital project funds. Enacted in March 2020, CARES grants are awarded to states for distribution to counties and other agencies to offset the economic ramifications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The budget is made up of distinct funds,” she told members of the Board. “Each fund has unique types of revenues and appropriations designed to accomplish specific purposes.”
Sittig said that the general fund is the operating budget for the school district. Revenues for the general fund are derived from federal reimbursements, state allocations, and local ad valorem tax levies.
Under the 2023-2024 school budget:
• $281,967,854 is derived from the general fund, up $15,254,769 from the actual 2022-2023 $266,713,085 figure;
• $19,244,213 from debt service, down $4,022,705 from the actual 2022-2023 $23,266,918 figure;
• and $128,641,720 from capital projects, an increase of $16,012,620 from the actual 2022-2023 figure of $112,629,100.
• Also, food service fund revenue under the 2023-2024 budget is $29,813,647, up $2,860,416 from the actual 26,953,23 in 2022-2023;
• Special revenue funds for 2023-2024 are $19,493,161 up $ 4,394,188 from the actual $15,098,973 in 2022-2023;
• Special revenue CARE Grant Funds for 2023-2024 are $ 31,066,922 representing an increase of $ 4,862,773 over the actual 2022-2023 figure of $26,204,149.
Finally, Sittig said that an overview of general fund appropriations reveals that salaries and benefits represent the district’s largest expenditure in the amount of $182.56 million. “These expenditures account for 78.82 percent of our total operating expenditures,” she said.
Meanwhile, purchased services cover contracted services in the amount of $16.91 million; energy and other utility expenses are $9 million; materials and supplies cover consumable classroom supplies in the amount of $15.78 million. “And other expenditures that primarily include dues and fees, as well as our district substitutes, total $1.25 million,” she said.
Ultimately, for a $200,000 home with a taxable value of $175,000, a homeowner would pay $1,109 per year. “With the assumption that they all have a homestead exemption,” McIntyre said.
Before they voted on the budget, Hernando Beach resident Diane Liptak said that the millage rate and the budget figure were too high, especially since residential market values and residential property values have spiked. “While the millage is set, the County is not required to do the set amount – they may not be able to go over, but they can go under,” she said. “And since market values have increased drastically this year and taxes have gone up drastically this year – the need, even though everything has increased in terms of numbers – the need can’t be that much more that you have to go after the same high millage rate amount to cover the costs.”
She also advocated for a line-item budget that would allow the board and others to see the actual cost of each expenditure and eliminate it, if appropriate, to make the most of available revenue. “Without a line-item budget, I don’t see that this is worth discussing really,” Liptak said.
Finally, members of the Hernando County Board voted to accept the budget by a 4-1 margin. Board member Shannon Rodriguez, who has been a critic of spending on certain items and of the designation of millage rate, cast the dissenting vote.