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Brevard School Board to vote on millage rate increase for November ballot

Last updated on April 27, 2022

In a 4-1 vote, the Brevard County School Board decided to place a property tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Brevard School Board met to vote to add property tax increase on the November ballot.

If voters approve the measure, called a millage increase, property owners in Brevard will pay $1 more per $1,000 of assessed value of property. An owner of a property worth $200,000 would pay $200 more per year, though Florida residents will pay less due to tax deductions.

The School Board said the money will fund much-needed raises for teachers and staff, technological upgrades and career and technical education.

Some residents at the meeting criticized the board for seeking to raise taxes during a time when families are struggling with inflation and rising costs. But school board members in favor of the resolution stressed that the board itself had no power to raise taxes without a vote by citizens and had no other means to pay teachers and staff more.

“There isn’t some secret hidden money that we’ve been using inappropriately,” School Board member Jennifer Jenkins said.

School Board member Matt Susin was the sole vote against the measure. He did not speak on the matter during the meeting. After the meeting adjourned, he said he did not approve of the increase because of the same financial concerns speakers at the meeting had raised.

“It just isn’t the right time,” he told FLORIDA TODAY.

School Board member Katye Campbell spoke at length about the need for the millage increase, calling it “one of the most important decisions I will make on this board.” She said the district has cut $39 million in costs in the past five years, and though it will continue to have to cut costs with or without the millage increase, the funds would allow schools to address some of the staff salary concerns.

“I don’t believe that we can cut our way to the kind of revenue that a millage can provide,” Campbell said. “And I’m certain that we can’t cut our way to the significant increases in compensation that our employees – who are also facing the same inflation that everybody’s talking about tonight – that they need.”

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Jenkins said her husband, a Brevard teacher, has worked for the district for 12 years and is still making the same salary as first-year teachers. The starting salary for BPS teachers is $46,800.

The resolution on Tuesday’s school board agenda had noted that Brevard Public Schools has the second most experienced teachers of school districts in the state, yet pays teachers below the state average. Nearby districts including Indian River, Orange County and Seminole County offer higher pay, and Brevard has seen an “alarming” increase in resignations and retirements, according to the resolution.

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“We’ve got master’s degrees, we’ve got twelve years of experience, we’re dedicating our lives to these children, and we can’t plan for the future of our own daughter,” Jenkins said.

Some speakers said the millage increase would hit not only property owners but also renters because landlords would pass the new costs to the tenants. Others said the School Board had no right to ask for increased taxes because parents and community members who spoke at meetings had lost trust in the school board, pointing to decreases to public speaking times and the sometimes tense disagreements between School Board Chair Misty Belford and public speakers.

“I’m afraid you lost the public trust. And as you move forward, I hope you have a plan to restore that public trust and maybe that plan is the elections in August,” Gene Trent, a school board candidate for district 2, said. “An idea to increase the millage at this point is actually just an idea that is destined to fail.”

This article first appeared on FloridaToday.com

Michael Lynch
Author: Michael Lynch

Raised on the Space Coast, I want to keep North Brevard informed of what's happening. Send Tips / Story Ideas to TitusvilleMedia@gmail.com

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