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Pasco School Board OKs $1 billion FY 2014 budget

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LAND O’ LAKES — After months of discussions and plenty of cost cutting, the Pasco County School Board’s spending plan for fiscal 2014 is now in place.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve its $1 billion budget for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. In addition, the board approved a local property tax rate that, when rounded to the nearest penny, is $7.36 per $1,000 of taxable property value.

The owner of a $125,000 house, after taking the $25,000 homestead exemption, would pay $735.70 in school taxes, an increase of $1.60.

The local property tax provides just a portion of the school district’s funding. The district also receives money from the state, as well as the federal government and other sources.

The district’s general fund budget, which pays for the day-to-day operation of the schools, is $518 million. That increased from $503 million last year because of money for teacher raises approved in Tallahassee and because of state funding to cover an increase in student enrollment.

The board gave its initial approval to the budget July 30, but getting to a balanced budget wasn’t easy. It required millions of dollars in spending cuts and the elimination of 265 jobs. Retirements and attrition helped the district avoid layoffs.

With the budget now passed, the board faces one more issue related to its finances.

It still needs to approve contracts that would provide the first raises in six years for teachers and other school district employees.

The board is scheduled to vote Oct. 1 on those contracts, just four days after the employees vote on ratification. If approved, the raises would be retroactive to July 1.

At Gov. Rick Scott’s urging, the state Legislature allocated money for teacher raises throughout the state this year. Pasco’s portion was about $11.7 million. In addition, the school board budgeted money to provide other district employees raises as well.

The tentative contracts set out the terms for those raises, which vary.

Also Tuesday evening, the board approved its five-year facilities plan.

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