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Pinellas School Board to approve final budget

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CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Schools leaders are set to approve this school year’s budget tonight, but not without giving the public a final opportunity to weigh in on proposed spending plan.

The operating budget — the one that covers salaries and day-to-day expenses but not major capital expenditures — includes $38.2 million more funding from the state than last school year.

At the last budget hearing in July, board members gave preliminary approval to a tax rate of $8.06 per $1,000 of taxable value, a small decline from the current rate of $8.30 per $1,000. Though the tax rate would drop slightly, the district still would bring in about $2 million more in local property taxes because overall property values have increased. The proposed tax rate would raise about $471 million, compared to $469 million last school year.

One of the biggest allocations in the budget, teacher salary increases and health insurance benefits, could total about $32.8 million.

Teachers in Pinellas County could get an average 5.6 percent salary increase this school year, and starting teachers’ salaries could increase to $40,000 under a tentative agreement between the teachers union and the school district reached last week. The school board is scheduled to vote on the contract Sept. 24.

Even though the school district will have more money to work with this school year, school officials have gone to great lengths during this year’s budgeting process to make sure there are no needless expenditures and that the school district can operate comfortably within its means, according to Superintendent Michael Grego.

School Board members are also set to approve the school district’s strategic plan, which lays out its goals for the coming school year.

“We’re analyzing every dollar we spend and making sure we can provide a return on each dollar,” Grego said.

The School Board will hold its final public hearing on the proposed $1.2 billion budget after its 5:30 p.m. meeting. The board meets at Pinellas County Schools’ administration building, 301 Fourth St. S.W., in Largo.

The proposed budget is available at www.pcsb.org/budget.

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