Flagler School District Taxes...A Brief Explanation

Note: The following question is from the Flaglerlive.com Candidate Interview with School Board Chairman Andy Dance on August 4, 2014.

Question: School taxes...Do you consider them high, low or just right? How much do you, as a school board member, control the setting of school taxes, and if you’ve been campaigning against high taxes, explain your position, and how relevant it is given your very limited powers as a school board member in that regard.

A common misnomer among candidates is that a board member has the ability to influence the Required Local Effort millage (property tax) rate. It should be noted that the state sets the RLE millage rate. It is prudent for the school board to prioritize expenditures based on strategic goals and objectives, and to mandate operational efficiency.

Everyone has a different view on taxes, and it primarily has to do with where a person has relocated from. If you moved from up north, I commonly hear our taxes are low when compared to the northern state’s tax rates. If you grew up in Flagler County, then your viewpoint is different, and you would believe that taxes are too high and keep going up!

I can offer my own personal experience with school taxes. I created a chart going back ten years for my residence in Palm Coast. For tax comparison purposes, my house on 13 Evansville Lane is pretty average, with a current taxable value of $111,598.00. My home’s value is down 17% from 2003, when it had a taxable value of $133,934.00. The year 2003 also happens to be when my school taxes were the highest over this span, at $1,180.90.

In 2014, my proposed taxes are estimated at $830.96. That is $349.94 dollars, or 29.63% less than what I paid in 2003. As you can see in the chart, school taxes (-29.63%) declined more than property values (-16.68) over this period for my property. This is just one example, and your property values and taxes may be different. Based on this example, school taxes are reasonable for the average homeowner, and the taxpayer is getting an incredible return on their investment, when you consider the high performing schools in this district.

2014-15 Flagler County School District Tentative Budget and Millage Report

The majority of the school district tax rate is set by the State of Florida. The proposed tax rate is 7.446, or .004 over last year's millage rate. The total millage rate to be levied exceeds the roll back rate by 5.45 percent. Since 1994, this year's millage rate will be the third lowest in the past 20 years.

The only option the State gives the local school district to levy additional local revenue is through the local referendum. If the voters had approved last year's half mill referendum, the proposed millage would be 7.446 + .5 = 7.946

Compare that to the flexibility the local governments have. Last year the County Commission approved a one mill property tax increase to fund the jail and other projects. Did they have to go to the public and ask for that increase via a referendum? No, the commission passed it without a public referrendum.

View the historical millage rates for the school district below (note that with the defeat of the referendum, the Critical Needs Operating millage is now "0.00").

2013-14 Flagler County School District Tentative Budget and Millage Report

View the following data on historical millage rates, property assessments and school funding:

• Flagler County Schools Millage Rates - 1994/95 to present

The majority of the school district tax rate is set by the State of Florida. The only option the State gives the local school district for additional local revenue for general operations is through  the local referendum. If the voters had approved the recent half mill referendum, the 2013/14 millage would have been nearly identical to last years millage (2012/13 - 7.943 vs 2013/14 - 7.442 + .5 = 7.942).

Compare that to the flexibility the local governments have…the County is getting ready to approve a one mill increase (+/-). Do they have to go to the public and ask for that increase via a referendum? No, the commission will vote it in.

View the historical millage rates for the school district below (note that with the defeat of the referendum, the Critical Needs Operating millage is now "0.00". Since 1994, this years millage will be the second lowest in the past 20 years):

• How Does the Total Property Tax Assessment Affect Local School General Funding?

• Flagler County Property Assessment Data - 1996/97 to present

Memorandum from Florida's Department of Education regarding the 2013/14 Tax Rate and Millage