CHRISTINA VEIGA: Miami-Dade Schools district proposes slightly lower tax rate

The Miami Herald, 07-08-2015

Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is proposing a slightly lower tax rate in a budget that he said Wednesday would also protect teachers’ jobs and increase spending on student services.

School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman said the $4.8 billion budget “respects our teachers, our students and our taxpayers.”

The proposed budget would add 46 new magnet programs, fund more school counselors and devote an extra $1 million to students with special needs. Money is also being set aside, $30 million, to negotiate possible raises for teachers and other workers.

The proposal also would provide a boost to classroom technology, with $27 million targeted for laptops and tablets — some specifically for students who have autism. The additional devices would also help at testing time, when computers are often unavailable for teaching because students have to take online assessments.

“We’re making this investment so teaching and learning continue, notwithstanding the assessment pressures,” Carvalho said.

An additional $4 million is proposed for bilingual programs. Parents have called for more effective foreign language programs and for making the classes available for all students.

Under Carvalho’s proposed budget, property owners would pay $7.72 per $1,000 of taxable property value. That’s down from about $7.97 last year.

The decrease is partially a result of debt restructuring, which has allowed the district to save money even as it continues to roll out a $1.2 billion capital campaign to fix up schools. It’s also due to a decrease in the rate set by Tallahassee. The state sets the minimum rate school boards must levy in order to tap into state money.

 While Carvalho is proposing a lower debt service rate, the remaining part of the tax bill that the school board sets is remaining flat. With property values increasing across Miami-Dade, some homeowners may see increases in their tax bill though the district says the typical homeowner should save $29 this year.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed rate at their regular meeting on July 15. After a vote, the rate may go lower but it is extremely difficult to raise.

The district’s budget has to be approved by the school board in two separate public votes. The first vote is scheduled for July 29.

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