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School Funding Falls 800 Million

December 3rd, 2009 by flanews

Falling property values will cost schools 300 million dollars next year unless state lawmakers change the tax code or find an alternative source of revenue. The drop is because taxable property values have fallen almost 10 percent in Florida this year. As Whitney Ray tells us, the decline coupled with other revenue shortfalls will leave schools 800 million fewer dollars.

A plummeting housing market fueled by foreclosures is costing the state millions of dollars for education. The statewide taxable property value is down 9.5 percent. The falling property values will leave lawmakers looking for new funding resources for schools.

The value drop brings the new education shortfall total for next year to 800 million dollars. State Senator Al Lawson says the legislature has its work cut out for it.

“It going to take some innovated strategies and some places that we can look to bring in some dollars to bring education on par,” said Lawson.

Those new strategies aren’t likely to include new taxes.

“The last thing that I believe that this legislature will do however is to increase property taxes, increase the burden on our fragile taxpayers,” said Rep. Anitere Flores.

Lawmakers are in special session poised to spend 700 million dollars on commuter rail, while the education funding gap is 800 million dollars, angering parents and educators.

“We can’t afford to have our kids to be in class sizes that make sense but yet we can have this conversation in this special session on rail. Something we are not opposed to, but what’s your priority,” asked Jeff Wright with the Florida Education Association.

Lawmakers say they’ll have 60 days to deal with the education crisis during regular session in March, but point out the clock is ticking to reach a rail deal.

Money for SunRail comes from the transportation budget funded by gas taxes, while schools are funded through general revenue. Which means lawmakers couldn’t simply pay for education with rail dollars.

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