Why is the Volusia County School Board asking the voters to approve a one-mill tax referendum on the November 6 election ballot?
An excellent public school system is essential to the economic development and the quality of life in Volusia County. Due to millions of dollars being slashed from the school district’s revenue in the past five years, we have had to significantly reduce student instructional programs and activities that support academic learning and achievement.
This major loss of funding for student instruction has resulted in our “A” school district rating dropping to a “C.”
Businesses and families will not want to locate to Volusia or remain in Volusia if we do not provide outstanding schools for our children and young people. Volusia will be unable to attract and maintain new businesses and young families. Volusia County will become a county comprised mainly of retirees.
Programs at risk
If the one mill referendum is not approved by the voters, the school district will be forced to further eliminate and reduce student instructional programs and activities which mean fewer and fewer teaching positions, as well as administration and support personnel positions.
Instructional programs cannot be offered if there are not adequate numbers of teachers for the classrooms. In addition, without necessary funds for teaching positions to meet Florida’s class size requirements, we will pay a penalty for every student over the class size mandate.
If the one mill referendum is approved, the total funds of $25 million for each of the four years the referendum exists will be dedicated to prevent further reduction of student instructional programs, such as advanced placement courses, reading enhancement and remedial programs, elective classes that include art and music, and sports programs at the middle and high schools.
The school district will be good stewards of the one-mill dollars just as we have been with the one-half cent sales tax the voters approved in 2001 for capital outlay costs. The Citizen Oversight Committee for the one-half cent sales tax has consistently reported that the school district has “kept the promise.”
Enrollment down, costs up
Although Volusia County schools’ student enrollment has declined close to five percent in the last five years, our revenue loss has been over 17 percent. The school district has eliminated more than 1,900 employee positions during that time in all job classifications.
Over 25 percent of central office expenditures have been cut. The superintendent’s direct staff, which are the major department heads such as the chief financial and curriculum officers, as well as principals and assistant principals, have been reduced by more than $2.5 million.
Because of a 2004 change in the state funding formula, the district cost differential, Volusia has lost $97.5 million since that time. Of all the 67 school districts in Florida, Volusia is the biggest loser receiving only $.967 on the dollar. During the past five years, the school district revenue from the Florida Education Finance Program has been cut by $80 million.
In an ongoing commitment by the Volusia County School Board to be transparent with finances, many years of school district budgets and audit reports can be found on our website.
Investing in students
Increased funding for K-12 public education in Volusia is an investment in our legacy to the future, both as a viable county and in the future of our children. Quality schools protect property value. No one wants to move into a neighborhood or community that does not have a successful and quality school.
We want to return our school system to an “A” rating. In order to accomplish this, the school district must not be forced to further reduce instructional programs and activities for our students.
The school district urges Volusia voters to learn about the need for our one mill referendum on the November 6th ballot by going to our webpage http:// www.myVolusiaSchools.org/1mill
Dr. Margaret Smith is the superintendent of Volusia County public schools.