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Washington County School District to set millage rate

CHIPLEY – The Washington County School Board is expected to approve its tentative millage rate and budget for the new fiscal year on Monday.

To receive Florida Education Finance Program funds from the state – a source that represents about 80 percent of the school district’s revenue – each school district in the state must generate a Required Local Effort (RLE) certified and set by the state from taxes assessed by the County. 

Each district’s share of the state total required local effort is determined by a statutory procedure that is initiated by certification of the property tax valuations of each district by the Florida Department of Revenue. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 on a home’s taxable value, meaning a home’s assessed value minus the homestead exemption or other exemptions a homeowner may have.

For Washington County, this year’s RLE millage rate is 3.698. The District’s Capital Outlay mill (1.15) and Discretionary mill (.748) are added to the RLE millage rate. The capital outlay tax will generate a little over $1.22 million and will be used in part for construction and remodeling projects in the district, including planned improvements at the Chipley and Vernon bus barns, Vernon High School track, Vernon Middle School baseball field, expansion of the shared Roulhac Middle and Chipley High School cafeteria, and classroom remodeling at Florida Panhandle Technical College.

In addition to several other projects, the funds will also support purchases such as new school buses and several school safety, maintenance, renovation, and repair efforts around the district.

This year’s total is 5.689 mills – is slightly lower than last year – but although the district isn’t imposing an increase, Washington County School Superintendent Joe Taylor states the rate had to be advertised as an increase to the tax levy.

He explained this is because some property values have appreciated and are expected to generate more revenue this year, resulting in the equivalent of a 1.7 percent increase to the RLE.

“Although the levy is less than what was assessed last year, it exceeds the roll back rate, and the school system will see more revenue,” said Taylor. “That is why we have to call it a tax increase. In reality, though, the tax didn’t go up, but rather the property values are what increased.”

Taylor added that taxable value went up by more than $70 million from the previous year. Those values are expected to general about $3.9 million for the school system.

The school district’s general fund is anticipated to be around $45.7 million, with about $5.4 million in special revenue, which include food service programs and federal programs.

Director of Finance Lucy Carmichael noted in the district’s budget workshop on Monday that the half-cent sales approved by Washington County voters in 2018 to fund school district capital projects and sooth educational technology needs is also on the uptick.

“The sales tax has been trending upward,” said Carmichael, “Through May of this year as compared to May of last year, we are up $136,000 with still another moth to accrue. That’s helping us a lot in our technology and building infrastructure projects.”

Washington County School District’s budget hearing is set for 5:05 p.m., Monday, July 26.

For more budget details, see page 7A of the Saturday, July 24 edition of the Washington County News.

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