The Dade County Board of Education at a special called meeting on Monday began its yearly budget process with a presentation of the proposed fiscal year 2019 numbers by its accountant, Russell Raney. The meeting also served as the first of the required public hearings on the budget, though no members of the public attended, and no press except for the pestilentially recurring Planet.
(Photo: File shot of Russell Raney, the B of E's accountant.)
Another public hearing is set for next Monday, June 18, at noon, to take place in the B of E’s offices in front of Dade High off Higway 136 East.
The school system’s proposed budget is up a little for fiscal year 2019, with projected income and expenditures of $18,847,585 as opposed to $18,269,484 in FY 2018. It is a balanced budget; Raney explained that though expenses are a little higher this year, so is the money the system will receive from the state.
Raney told the school board and Superintendent Jan Harris that personnel costs are almost 91 percent of the budget, with $11,692,990 in salaries and $5,409,645 in benefits. Dr. Harris said that part of the budget had been trimmed this year through attrition, not by laying anyone off but by not replacing staffers as they left.
Another point of interest: The school board has still not restored its full portion of local funding for the Dade Public Library, a burden it had shared with the Dade County and Trenton city governments before, under former Superintendent Shawn Tobin, it ducked abruptly out from under in 2012, contributing nothing at all for two years. But it has been sporadically chipping back in since then in slow increments, and for FY 2019 it increased its contribution to $25,000 from $21,900 last year.
The school board meanwhile had asked the county government, and the county government had agreed, to share its cost for additional school resource officers (SROs) after horrific school shootings in other states. Accountant Raney said the amount he had included in this year’s budget for that was $56,000 to cover the schools’ half of salary and benefits for two more officers.
Two? The intergovernmental agreement with the county had said three more. Board Chairperson Carolyn Bradford explained: The Dade Sheriff’s Office had some years ago gotten a grant to pay half the salary of an SRO at Dade High, the school board to pay the other half. The grant ran out but the sheriff’s office kept paying its half anyway, so in effect the school board and county were already splitting the cost for the DCHS SRO. The two new SROs will be for Davis Elementary and Dade Middle School.
As for the DARE instructor SRO at Dade Elementary, the IGA specifies: “The County will continue to pay for the SRO position at the Dade Elementary until it is determined otherwise and the Dade Elementary SRO is not a part of this agreement."
The B of E’s budget eclipses that of the county commission exponentially, and the school portion is also the lion’s share of the typical county residential property tax bill—the school-to-county split is something like 65-35.
But most of the school system’s income is from the state. Raney’s figures for FY 2019 are $12,153,126 from state funds, or 64.5 percent, versus $5,756,963 from local taxes, or 30.4 percent; plus $968,000 from other local sources including car tags, TVA and grants.
More hearings may ensue further into the summer as the next part of the budget process unfurls--reviewing the tax digest and determining whether to adjust the millage rate for property taxes.