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Pinellas School Board OKs $1.77B budget, joins legal fight

Veronica Brezina



Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. Photo: PCS Facebook.

The Pinellas County School Board has approved a $1.77 billion budget despite a decreasing tax rate. 

The budget includes a tax rate of $5.938 per $1,000, representing a 10.87% increase when compared to the “rolled back rate,” but it is a 2.5 cent decrease compared to the previous year, according to a presentation at the Sept. 12 Pinellas County School Board meeting where members pushed the budget forward. 

The “rolled-back rate” is the millage needed to generate the same amount of dollars as the previous fiscal year and is typically lower than the proposed rate. Although the tax rate is decreasing, higher property taxes will drive more revenue for the district. 

As the county-wide property value generally increases from year to year due to increased assessments, the rolled-back rate will typically be less than the proposed millage levy. However, maintaining revenue at the same level as the previous year does not provide for funding new student growth or basic inflationary cost increases with general expenses, according to PCS documents. 

The proposed taxes to be raised by the total millage rate will be $83.7 million more than the proceeds generated by last year’s millage rate. Capital outlay proceeds will increase by $21.9 million while operating proceeds will increase by $61.8 million. 

Local taxes and funding will make up nearly 70% of the $1.77 billion budget with $999.84 million. State revenues account for over $299 million and federal revenues represent over $158 million of the budget. Additionally, there are other sources of funding from grants. 

The board also presented the 2023-2024 district strategic plan and goals such as earning a district grade of an A, expanding early literacy initiatives for all students in PreK and higher grades, embracing more innovative approaches, increasing transportation operations for students and hiring more teachers. 

School versus social media 

During the same board meeting, members unanimously voted to join the hundreds of school districts as part of a nationwide, multi-district litigation against the social media conglomerates behind Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Snapchat, TikTok and Google (YouTube). 

The school districts claim that social media has a negative mental health impact on students. The lawsuit was filed to illicit new regulations on how minors interact with social media. 

“We see reduced attention span, reduced cognitive development or delayed cognitive development, learning impacts, behavior, discipline, physical health, mental health, depression, and certainly the worst that could happen to any family or school family, which is the loss of life,” said School Board Vice Chairperson Laura Hine.

One school official said the school board has spent money and expended time in trying to address these and and other issues spurred by the actions of  parent companies of the social media platforms. 

“We would be alleging in this lawsuit that those companies knew of some of the deleterious effects of their platforms upon use and did not do anything about it to mitigate it,” said David Koperski, an attorney with PCS. 

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  1. Avatar

    John Donovan

    September 15, 2023at3:23 pm

    Bi-partisan agreement on this issue. I’m not ready to prescribe the specific solution. But one needs to be found and agreed upon. Soon!

  2. Avatar

    John Donovan

    September 15, 2023at3:25 pm

    Comment is regarding social media. Which is too often unsocial. With immediate and poor outcomes for young people in particular.

  3. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith Hayes

    September 17, 2023at2:36 pm

    I agree with the negative effects of social media on our children. Suing them does not appear to be the answer. It is the parents right to allow their children to use social media. What needs to be done is to find a way to make social media educational. Work on influencing Social Media owners to help save our children instead of destroying them.

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