Senate inches toward new school funding plan

A Florida Senate committee passed a measure that could change the way schools are funded in the state of Florida. They want to tie increases in school funding to the state contribution for education.

This year, Governor Rick Scott is asking for a more than $400 million school funding increase, but the money would come from higher local property taxes. State Senator Don Gaetz, R-Destin, chairs the Education Appropriations Committee and says the Senate wants even more education dollars this year.  "That would require north of a $500 million increase in property taxes."

The extra money is coming, because properties are worth more this year, so the taxes on them are higher. Gaetz is proposing that state funding cover at least half of the increase.  "We have a partnership with our local school boards and our local property taxpayers with regards to education. and if we do nothing, the state of Florida this year would be a minority partner in the partnership."

The state requires local governments to charge a certain amount of property taxes each year called the Required Local Effort. Sen. Gaetz and others in the Senate want that number lowered for the upcoming year.  "You can call it a tax cut because it is a reduction in what otherwise would be a tax burden"

While that committee did pass the measure, they did not specify what, if anything, would be cut from the state budget to make up the difference. Sales taxes make up a large chunk of state revenue. The bill next goes to the Finance and Tax Committee, but faces an uphill battle. Both Gov. Scott and the Florida House say they oppose funding schools this way.