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Local Activist Queries Nassau School Board Member on School Taxes

Special School Board Meeting Monday Night on $$$$$ Budget

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By Deb Boelkes, 9-10-23

From: Deb Boelkes <[email protected]>
Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2023 4:22 PM
To: Curtis Gaus <gauscu@nassau.k12.fl.us>; Kevin Lilly <[email protected]>
Cc: Michael Hickox <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Property Appraiser Values

Hello Gentlemen, Thank you so much for replying to my emails over this weekend, and for sharing what you each believe to be true about this troubling situation we all now find ourselves in. It will be terrific if we can all get on the same page!

I have been told that the School Board has a chance to modify the millage rate at tomorrow night’s school board meeting, depending on the $ amount actually needed by the district, and the amount to be generated by the 1 mill increase given current property values. If a .4 mill increase, or some other rate less than a 1 mill increase, will generate the Increased $$ the school board originally said was needed, can a revised millage rate be agreed to this week (or whenever), prior to property tax bills being sent out by the Property Assessor’s office? What can legally be done that will provide for our children and minimize the additional costs to the taxpayers?

Of course, taking the most appropriate course of action requires that ALL school board members, and ideally the taxpayers also, should have all the necessary information about:

(1) the total amount of money needed to fund the basic needs of the district,

(2) the amount of money the district would have without any millage increase,

(3) the amount of money that is currently expected to be generated by the one millage increase now that properties have been revalued, and (4) the expected amount that was to be generated by the 1 millage increase BEFORE property values were revised.

Essentially, what is the $ difference between items 3 and 4, and now that properties have been revalued, what is the actual millage rate increase needed to generate the $$ originally expected in item 4?   If there is a legal way to make that happen, can’t we just find a way to do that?

It seems to me that in order to achieve that, the entire school board (and the community) should have a full report directly from the Property Appraiser BEFORE any final millage rate decision is made.

I don’t know if it is possible for Mr. Hickox and/or Mr. Lilly to provide such a report at the School Board meeting tomorrow night. If not, perhaps the School Board’s decision should be deferred until they can become fully informed. It makes no sense for the Board to make such important decisions, decisions which have such a big impact on the taxpayers, without the correct information upon which to make an informed decision.

All this information should be made available to the public, as well.

BTW, what was the total annual budget for the school district last year?

I was told by someone who had reviewed the limited aspects of the budget that were made available for public viewing that last year’s budget was $248,000,000.  Is a quarter of a Billion $ indeed the correct total budget amount for this past year?

If not, what was the correct total budget last year?

What are all the sources for this funding beyond property taxes?

Also, what is the correct number of students attending public school last year vs. this year?

NOTE: According to Niche.com, there are 12,380 students in the Nassau County School District.

Assuming  all is correct, at 12,380 students, $248M would cover a cost of $20K per student. That seems quite high since according to https://www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/private-school-cost-by-state for 2023 the national average private elementary school  tuition cost is $11,554 per year and the private high school average tuition is $16,003 per year. Specifically,

  • the state with the highest average private school tuition is Connecticut with a $28,861 average tuition cost.
  • The state with the lowest tuition cost is South Dakota with an average cost of $3,986.
  • The average in Florida is $10,373 ($11,473 for high school and $10,329 for elementary school tuition).

Perhaps none of this is correct. I would very much appreciate knowing what you all know to be true. Are we the taxpayers  really paying twice as much per public school student in Nassau County than it would cost to send our kids to private school?

The more transparent we can all be, and the more accurate the data we use, the better off our taxpayers and our children will be. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.

Thank you so much to each of you for trying to do the right thing. Together we can make the most informed decisions.

I’m sorry I will miss tomorrow’s meeting, as I will be in Kentucky. Best wishes and thanks again for working through all this together.

Deb Boelkes is a local business woman and Founder, We the People

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