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Flagler School District Will Propose New Tax, Citing Costly Security Needs and Programs

| March 5, 2013

Deputy School Superintendent Jacob Oliva, left, and School Board member Colleen Conklin, watching the Flagler Palm Coast Class of 2012 file out after graduation last May. The board and the district administration are seeking additional dollars from taxpayers top preserve programs and pay for security needs parents are demanding. (© FlaglerLive)

Deputy School Superintendent Jacob Oliva, left, and School Board member Colleen Conklin, watching the Flagler Palm Coast Class of 2012 file out after graduation last May. The board and the district administration are seeking additional dollars from taxpayers top preserve programs and pay for security needs parents are demanding. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County School Board will ask voters in a referendum later this year to approve a property tax that would add about $25 to the tax bill for a home valued around $150,000, with a $50,000 homestead exemption. The levy would net $1.6 million a year. It would be in effect for four years, beginning on July 1 and through June 2017.

The referendum, to be held in a special election that would cost $80,000, will actually ask voters to approve double that levy—specifically, a 50-cent tax on every $1,000 in assessed property value, which would increase the typical property tax bill by $50, and generate $3.2 million for the district. But voters have already been paying a 25-cent levy, which expires in June. That levy has been bringing in $1.6 million a year.

The board voted 4-1 to move ahead with the referendum, with Chairman Andy Dance in dissent. It will formalize that decision in a special meeting next week.

The board is essentially asking voters to approve a continuation of that levy, and to add an additional 25 cents to pay for mounting needs, among them the new posting of sheriff’s deputies in all five traditional elementary schools. Most parents support that initiative. But the board has no money for it short of raiding its reserves. Deputies in elementary schools will cost anywhere between $275,000 and $437,000 a year.

The new money would also help restore 45 minutes to the school day (which will cost $2 million), and therefore lead to the re-hiring of teachers laid off when the day was cut, two years ago, to save money. Parents and teachers were unhappy with the shorter day (which was never a shorter day for teachers, only students), but the district said it had no choice at the time. The new money will not eliminate cost-cutting pressures on the board, which anticipates facing more cuts even if the levy is passed.

Board members are confident that voters will strongly support the levy, just as they have supported similar, smaller levies in the last two years.

“I believe that we’ve been good stewards of the sales tax dollars, and the citizens in this community know that,” board member Colleen Conklin said. “So I say, give them the option to say yea or nay. I don’t think we have anything to lose.”

“That is certainly my recommendation,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said. “I have heard from many parents and community members and all wanting to assist and step up to the plate, So I agree going out and allowing that to be provided for the voters to make that decision, because if this was approved by the voters, we would give them what they’ve been asking for.”

There was little question three years ago, when school officials knew that the existing extra levies would expire, that they would be turning to voters for a renewal of a 50-cent sales surtax, which they did last November. Former School Superintendent Bill Delbrugge had actually counseled against going ahead with the 25-cent levy to ensure that when the time came for the 50-cent levy, voters would not be put off by the request. The concern was that voters would feel hammered by successive tax referendums virtually three years in a row.

But the district had what it called “critical needs” coinciding with a significant decrease in state aid as the drastic economic downturn dropped property values. On top of that, the district’s school population stopped growing, ensuring that state aid would not grow either.

School Board Chairman Andy Dance made that very point this evening, saying he wasn’t “at all” comfortable going back out to voters to ask them for a full 50-cent levy. “I don’t know that I’m on board with the half-mil,” he said. “I’m not crazy about even asking for the quarter, but I can realistically talk to voters about an extension, but not necessarily about a new tax.”

But Conklin said a continuation of the 25-cent levy would be similar to doing nothing, in that it would not provide additional money. She proposed putting three options to the public for community input before deciding what to place on the referendum. Board member Sue Dickinson didn’t like the idea.

“It’s too complex to put it out to the community to tell us what to do,” Dickinson said. “We as a board are given the information of what our needs are, we hear from the community they want the safety increased, we know what that’s going to cost, and rather than go out and say, well, do you want us to do nothing, do you want us to do a quarter, do you want us to do half, let’s just go out and tell them we need the half. And this is what we’re going to do with it.”

Dance was concerned about the all-or-nothing approach. “I heard somebody say we don’t have anything to lose,” he said. “Actually we do have a lot to lose, because going back out for an additional tax, which this would be, we have the very real possibility of losing and getting nothing. I mean, it’s a lot of discussion here about how everybody seems really positive that this is going to happen. But it has to be approved by the voters.” Another option, he said, is continuing with the 25-cent levy. Dance stumped hard just last year for the renewal of the district’s half-penny sales surtax, but on the assumption that the board would be cautious. Dance is also concerned about a special election costing $80,000. Voters, he said, “are getting school-funding fatigue.” (An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the tax Dance stumped for as another 25-cent property tax levy.)

But in this case, Dance was strongly outnumbered by the four other board members.

Because voters approved two levies in the last two and a half years–the 25-cent property tax levy and, last November, the renewal of a half-penny sales surtax–the district was able to minimize the effects of the downturn and the reductions in funding. It did so better than most districts even as it cut $7 million dollars from its budget, reduced the school day by 45 minutes a day, and laid off more several dozen teachers. Last year, the district used $1.8 million from its reserves to balance the budget. It plans to use the same amount from reserves this year—not counting the cost of federal sequestration, which may have a net cost of $1.5 million for Flagler schools.

“While we have planned for this and have set aside grant funds to roll forward to 2013-14 to try to minimize that impact, we’re still going to fall short,” Patty Wormeck, the district’s finance director, said. “Sand the amount of funds that we’re going to roll forward is just for a one-year period. The sequestration is for 10 years. The outcome of that is unknown.” (It is unlikely, however, that sequestration as it now stands will outlast the year.) Wormeck added: “For the first time in probably as long as any of you can remember, we have had a steady decline for the past five months in our students. We could not predict this, nor did we fully plan for this. We had hoped to be slightly increasing that at this point, and a little bit higher at the beginning of the next school year.”

The district has lost 228 students since the beginning of the school year, or the equivalent of $1.4 million in funding.

The new money would also help add health and counseling services, and preserve current academic programs, such as the International Baccalaureate, that might otherwise suffer from pressures to cut costs.

“This half-mil,” board member Trevor Tucker said, “it might not even solve our problem of just being solvent with what we currently have.” He said “we need this half mil, terribly,” but that the board was still facing cuts ahead.

Valentine says that will be the case, but that the district had been “diligent in making the necessary cuts we’ve had to make without affecting programs at this point. At some point program does become affected because you do have to prioritize.” Valentine had considered proposing a full $1-mil referendum, but knew that politically, it would be unfeasible.

The school board will formally approve a resolution to go to a referendum at a special meeting next week (on March 12). The board will ask the Flagler County Commission, which must approve any local referendum, to place the initiative on a ballot later this year, at the commission’s March 18 meeting.

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36 Responses for “Flagler School District Will Propose New Tax, Citing Costly Security Needs and Programs”

  1. Ruben says:

    Get the parents to pay for this first. If they can’t cover it all then ask the public for half of what the parents pay.
    My kids are out of school as many of us here in palm coast on fixed incomes. I don’t feel compelled to vote for this tax. Maybe keeping red light cameras should stay to pay for this use.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Children are educated for the good of the community – that’s why we all pay. If kids aren’t educated, who do you think is going to be gainfully employed and keep your property values up? Who is going to become the doctors and nurses that will keep you alive in your old age? Who is going to pay taxes to keep paying for your social security and medicare, and for the police and fire departments that protect you, and for the public services that we all use – like paved roads?

      Educating is an essential public service just like all those those other things I mentioned. Just because you aren’t using it right not doesn’t make it essential. Your house has never burned down I bet, but you still pay for the fire department, right? It’s there for everyone’s good even if they never use it. Just like the schools.

      • Ruben says:

        To Nancy N, your answer is questionable. I’m paying for your kids education I sure as heck didn’t get help from you to put my kid threw college so guess what she couldn’t afford to go. As far as doctors and nurses well again my kids aren’t Doctors or nurses cause you didn’t help me with the costly tuition. Who’s going to pay taxes to keep things going I am you are. Police and fire same thing. I pay for all that still till I die. But I still don’t think I should foot the bill for more. Like I said what about us folks on fixed incomes with pensions earned after decades of work and sacrifice why should we pay more so your kids and you feel safer? Their probably in more danger going to school and back with their lousy driving parents. Eating lousy fatty food and smoking cancer causing cigarettes.

  2. kmedley says:

    “School-funding fatigue”?! How about tax increase fatigue irregardless of the form? I will vote no and please do not use the sequestration as part of the reasoning behind renewing a tax set to expire and adding a new tax.

    As for the $80,000 cost for the Special Election, take note of the 2009 Special Election. If at all possible, enter into an Interlocal Agreement with the SOE and please have some mechanism in place so that costs may be verified before checks are issued.

    In 2009, a Special Election was ordered for Senate District 8. At the time, Flagler County had 38 precincts. Of those, 5 did not fall within Senate District 8; so, 33 precincts had to be opened and staffed for the election. The total initially requested from the County for the primary and general election was estimated at $358,000 ($179,000 for each election). The actual costs were less than $65,000 for each election. 4077 of 21,246 registered voters voted in the primary and 1481 of 58,228 voted in the general, a per vote cost of $15.94 and $43.89, respectively.

    In 2011, a Special Election was ordered for Senate District 1, which impacted 5 precincts. The outcome was decided with the primary. 41 of 1787 voters voted. The submitted costs totaled $7068.69, a little more than $172.00 per vote.

    Projected costs are between $75k and $80k; yet, we currently have 23 precincts that will need to be opened for this Special Election. Seems to me the projected costs would be lower with fewer precincts.

    Associated costs just to conduct the election aside, I agree with many, this is simply a ploy to take advantage of a low voter turnout in order to push through yet another tax increase. I for one would like to see a complete breakdown of the lottery money and just exactly where that money has gone. That was another bill of goods we were sold as a way to help the schools.

  3. Reality Check says:

    It is hard to approve anything our overpriced School Board decides, cut your outrageous salaries and get rid of the assistant super intendants position. Then maybe it will show you are serious about cost cutting measures, as of now you are trying to pad your budget. The deputy program will cost 300 K, yet you want an additional 1.6 million? Oh yes you also voted yourselves raises, forgot about that.

  4. Pat says:

    BS……No more money from the residents. Take all those Palm trees and cut the Town Center future building cost. Save some gas from all the city work trucks that drive around most of the day. Cut the extra gas cost to the FCSO and let the officers were shorts and tee shirts so they don”t have to be using their A/C in their vehicles all day and night.

    • johnny taxpayer says:

      You are aware that the City of Palm Coast, and the Flagler Sheriffs Office have nothing to do with the Flagler County School Board? You could tear up all the palm trees and park every city truck and it wouldn’t make a dimes difference on the School Board’s funding.

  5. there are three sides to every story says:

    Start living in Realville….Water tax increase now this…when will it stop!
    Palm Coast is still in a recession…..Lets go over the B of E AND town budget…
    line by line….I’m sure there is still plenty of hidden fat that can be cut before we
    go asking for more tax dollars!

  6. confidential says:

    Totally against it!
    The school board needs to to cut corners in administrative expenses were the real waste is. Flagler county still sustains the highest unemployment rate in Florida and one of the highest in the nation.
    while the school purchaser outsource our schools tax funded contracts…to the Florida prison system Pride supplier, helping to keep our local unemployment rate this high. Then the school demands from us local unemployed residents and businesses higher taxes..?

  7. Lin says:

    More money, more money
    More for the city to waste
    More for the county to buy a handyman special
    Water company for Flagler/ volusia
    Now the schools
    When does it end?
    Flagler county salaries down 14.4%
    Think about this. Salaries down for people who are lucky enough to have a job, people on fixed incomes
    We all know there are lots of not-so-young people that can’t
    Afford to pay more yet the answer is always raise taxes
    When will these officials join the real world?
    My budget takes a CUT when income comes down. –basic economics
    Ever hear of salary cuts? Happens to balance private industry budgets all the time

    I would be willing to pay in my taxes for a dedicated fund
    to increase security in our schools but I am not confident theory would be used for this purpose

  8. Anonymous says:

    Then what happens after four years, you call another $80,000 election and ask for even more money? Sounds to me this is a tax that never ends. The school board needs to learn how to operate on a budget. Andy, you will have my vote in 2014!

  9. Donna Heiss says:

    NO, simply, NO.

  10. Bob Z. says:

    I do not see why they need to hire deputies for school security when a private armed security guard can be had for at least half the money. Most of the private armed guards are retired or former military and more than qualified to protect the students, staff, etc.

  11. Sherry Epley says:

    We should not be traumatizing our children by turning our schools into armed fortresses. The culture and social norms of our country are being degraded by this kind of thinking. Why is this even under consideration? Unfortunately, there are always more, and more powerful “all too legal” guns. We are quickly headed down a slippery slope where Violence creates more Violence. . . and the world starts looking like a terrible movie. I hope our leaders and voters think, really think, long and hard before allowing such a change to happen in our schools and therefore in the greater culture.

  12. gator says:

    I’m sick of money, money, money, don’t have any, and I still pay taxs,I problie would not mind, but these kids don’t even go to school.they run the streets,then the parents states they are home school,and they are running around breaking in to homes,gave me a break.are schools are safe, we need more police on the roads doing a job,in stead of sitting at a school,

  13. Whodat says:

    What do you expect?

    Residents don’t vote, don’t get involved, and don’t go to meetings. So, all the School Board has to do is “rubber stamp” everything.

    If voters or concerned Flagler residents don’t go to School Board meetings at least go to the polls and defeat this overpriced proposition and out of control spending in this County. If we don’t stop this “the sky is falling” scare tactics; this Flagler County School Board will continue their advance on your pockets year after year. Draw the line in the sand now and by defeating this spend thrift idea we will send a clear message to this Board that we don’t need your rubber stamps anymore. I will go even further and ask voters to vote these people out. There methodology is to solve everything with new found money. Where are the thought provoking methodologies with fresh ideas besides digging deeper into tax payer pockets? Have the School Board and Superintendent given any thought to the retired fixed income residents of Flagler County who have to make do with their fixed income on a daily basis.

    Of course the student population is decreasing. What do you expect when there are no jobs and if you are lucky to get one (most likely in one of the new restaurants around town) it will be minimum wage.
    I was driving from one end of Palm Coast to the other end yesterday and observed all the Red Light Cameras we have here. I think it’s disgraceful. It makes our City and County look cheap – like you have entered some zone that needs to be watched. Where are the road deputies Manfre promised? I see plenty of cameras but no deputies.Upsetting the least to which the City gets pittance on each violation. I think it’s time for the taxpayers to wake up and ‘watch’ this School Board and Superintendent spend our hard earned retirement income. We are being short changed and overwhelmed with new programs such as a new technology program which is not necessary right now. That alone will save close to a half of million dollars. I don’t believe for one minute that this program will cost $404,000 for a four year period. There will be tremendous cost over runs involving this bright idea. We don’t need it now. There is other fat that certainly can be eliminated like why rehire teachers when student population has decreased by over 200 students in the name of a shorter school day by a half hour? This is nothing more than fooling the public again and again with fuzzy numbers and details. I admire Andy Dance for standing alone in the face of not so much adversity but outright lies and blackmail to the sleepy voters. To them I say wake up and get involved.

    Lastly, Superintendent Valentine and Sheriff Manfre have once again snookered the voters about scare tactics involving security for more schools. Nothing more dear to our hearts is the safety of our children but equally more distasteful is using that fear to promote further tax monies to appease parents with children attending our Flagler schools. They use the “concerns of parents” to advance hysteria and their individual self-aggrandizing motif to promote individual goals such as bloating their agency rather than fresh ideas which will save taxpayers money. The devil is in this bloating which involves balance between parents of children attending school and what is feasible to taxpayers. Usually parents don’t want balance, they want either/or. School administrators’ don’t take the time to implement school safety plans correctly.

    Sometimes they are guided by single decisions put in force by a parent of an attending child with no forethought of the consequences or the additional added tax to individual Flagler County residents who also have to make personal adjustment to their own budgets by decisions by School Boards and a Sheriff who promised to rein in spending by a former Sheriff and is himself dolling out raises like a leaking faucet.

    There are a lot of ways to overspend to keep students safe, yet this school administrator can’t be bothered to implement plans that also include austerity with a balanced approach to tax payers alike.

  14. Stevie says:

    read…..The K-12 Implosion…at Amazon

    Big things are happening all across the country with new alternatives to faux public education.

    Publication Date: January 15, 2013 | Series: Encounter Broadside
    Economist Herb Stein famously said that something that can’t go on forever, won’t. For decades now, America has been putting ever-growing amounts of money into its K-12 education system, while getting steadily poorer results. Now parents are losing faith in public schools, new alternatives are appearing, and change is on the way. The K-12 Implosion provides a succinct description of what’s wrong, and where the solutions are likely to appear, along with advice for parents, educators, and taxpayers.

  15. h&h says:

    Are the children getting the education we’re paying for?? I took my cat to the vet for his yearly shots a few weeks ago and set him on the scale while he was in his kennel. A very young lady in her late teens he’s 20.2# and the kennel is 10#. She took out a calulator and took 20.2# minus 10# and said he weighs 10.2#.. WHAT GENIUS..

  16. Edman says:

    I’m a retired educator who will vote for more teachers with better pay, technology, science labs, reading and math specialists, remedial teachers…. anything that has been proven to improve the educational experience for children. I can’t, however, vote to put security officers in each school. This knee-jerk action will not make our kids safer and it will drain resources sadly needed in the classrooms.

    • Lin says:

      Lots of good ideas here with volunteering security, former military, etc. but Edman, come on, give “resources” more more to teachers but don’t protect students and school personnel with guards.
      There are guards everywhere like banks, mall, museums, hospitals and nothing is more precious than life especially lives of our kids. Now who is having a knee jerk reason here? God forbid we put the safety of children before better pay for teachers. We have to take our heads out of the sand regarding security and prioritize it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I thought the base pay at the FCSO was about 35K if so that a total of 280000 for ALL 8 of the Government schools in this county. so where the heck does this come from ~ Deputies in elementary schools will cost anywhere between $275,000 and $437,000 a year. Im sure it is in part due to using OT to pay the bill. We can not afford this cost use regular pay pull some deputys to work the schools may 2-3 and they can spend the day going from school to school

  18. Magicone says:

    No, No, this is getting out of hand. Taxpayers especially property owners are not getting what we are being raped for. I have been paying property taxes in the 30 years that I have owned a house, a lot of that goes to the school board………..I don’t have any children. The county wants to spend 1/4 million $ on iPads, put armed deputies on each campus, extend the school day. The kids are getting free breakfast and lunch. Things sure have changed since I went to school. I ate peanut butter or bologna sandwiches walked to school, and didn’t have to enter through a bobbed wire fence to attend classes. That seems to be the answer to everything in Flagler county…..RAISE THE TAXES, PUT UP MORE CAMERAS……………

  19. Amanda says:

    They need money yet they want to open another school!?!

  20. Outside the box says:

    How about a no cost solution for protecting our children in school? Why haven’t school board members researched this option as other school districts have? Obviously we don’t need more taxes in Flagler county.

    “In Jordan, south of Minneapolis, officials looking at school security after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut decided the police would set up satellite offices in public schools. Officers will conduct some of their daily work from the schools, including taking calls and filling out paperwork, while still going out into the community to patrol or respond to emergencies. The hope is the armed officers, with their squad cars in school parking lots, will discourage — or meet — any would-be attackers.”

  21. Pat says:

    Seems like the ideas and actions of the city council and school board do not represent the majority of residents in this county. People are getting tired of tax increases. One day there might not be any people left here to tax..

    • Roger says:

      You know school board members are reading this and hearing from citizens. If they don’t get the message that this is a bad idea and not a good use of our tax dollars, then they all need to be replaced. They represent us and need to respect our input and desires.

      The money spent on a special election now, just months away from the last election, would be a waste, and would be an embarrassment to the school board and superintendent. The CT shooting isn’t the first school shooting this country has experienced, and the school board knew the current tax was going to expire long before now. There is nothing that warrants a special election; the need simply isn’t there.

  22. Stevie says:

    Separate the STATE out of the public school system. Privatize education and use the government to monitor learning standards like they do now with private schools. There is no reason to believe the government can educate children let alone protect them. History proves my point.

    • Anonymous says:

      YES we need school choice. Let the parents choose what school to send their kid too. Give them the $$$ in a voucher not all the $$ maybe just 80%. the rest can still go to the local Government school.

  23. says:

    having law enforcement officers in schools saids a lot about our society in general. dysfuctional families and parents equals dysfuctional students. yes i can see we are really improving. lets put them in all the churches also, libraries, movies, and god only knows where else.

  24. says:

    school board members do not need to draw a 30 plus thousand dollar salaries, there is another way it is called volunteering like in new york and new jersey. if that happens here you will see several resign.

  25. Whodat says:

    Once again I question the powers to be, not only the Flagler County School Board, but also the Superintendent’s office for creating a new technology tract program which is a duplication of one that already exists to which taxpayers already fund.

    I am not against students learning a new technology but I am against needless and wasteful spending of taxpayer monies toward this venture of the Superintendent’s and School Board’s questionable funding, even fuzzy, Flagler County Taxpayers long term commitment to this endeavor when we already have an excellent Technology tract and consortium.

    “The ATC is a public/private partnership. Daytona State College, the Volusia County School System and the Flagler County School System represent the public side of the project and are joined by the ATC Board of Directors, which is composed of business and community leaders who represent the private side of the project. The ATC is a member of the Volusia Flagler Career Connection Consortium and is supported by the business communities of Volusia and Flagler counties.”

    So, why all of a sudden the rubber stamp by the School Board to pass and appropriate funding for this expensive venture. I question the $404,000 cost spread over a five year period. There are many unanswered questions: Is this pie in the sky with forethought of “Clouds” in the sky? Doesn’t this take away potential Flagler students from the original intent of the Advanced Technology Center Program which was agreed to by the Flagler County School System? Do taxpayers now have to pay double for two Technology Programs? What does the State Legislature have to say with respect to funding both of these programs? What is special about this program versus the ATC program? Is there disagreement about the way the ATC is run?

    Ironically, Donn Kaupke was retiring and was set to become the first Director of the then, Advanced Technology Center (ATC), now known as the Advanced Technology College. Mr. Kaupke’s directorship was put on hold while a sexual harassment charge was alleged and investigated. The Flagler County School Board settled a $100,000 settlement to a school employee and Donn Kaupke was never hired.

  26. h&h says:

    wsh302. Wisconsin was like that also. This school board is in it for the money..

  27. PJ says:

    Retired cops could be an option. Many are retired here from big cities and are always looking for something to do. No pensions, no benefits savings with experience.

  28. Jojo says:

    Until some school official addresses you by Barney Fife and orders you to take the garbage out to the dumpster – shots fired!

  29. says:

    PJ count me in

  30. Ruben says:

    More security will be needed to protect Government offices more than schools. Because its getting to the point where Government elected officials may become the biggest target. Hey I’m just saying.

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