Miami-Dade schools chief’s budget plan finds consensus
Aug 5, 2009
The Miami-Dade School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the first draft of the school system’s $4.8 billion budget — a plan that would prevent layoffs and bolster the district’s rainy-day fund.
The 9-0 vote marked a dramatic change from last year, when a contentious budget hearing lasted until midnight and board members were left divided on the proposal.
This year, however, board members said they were satisfied with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s budget plan.
Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla called the proposal ”a fiscally responsible budget that addresses the needs of the school system.”
Said board Vice Chairwoman Marta Pérez: ”I know we have plenty of problems at the district, but it is undeniable that there has been a 180-degree turn during the past several months.”
The only opposition came from a half dozen teachers, who faulted Carvalho for not including money for teachers’ raises.
Teachers districtwide were supposed to receive pay increases last June, but district officials said they could not afford them.
The board on Tuesday also approved the tentative tax rate by a 7-2 vote.
The proposed tax rate is $8 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value — a slight increase over last year’s rate of $7.80.
Carvalho and the board decided against raising the rate even further.
”This year’s budget was prepared with a conscious effort to avoid raising property taxes,” board member Perla Tabares Hantman said.
The district’s tentative budget does not include any layoffs.
Other Florida school districts, including Broward County, have had to lay off hundreds of employees to balance their budgets, although Broward later found it possible to ask some teachers to return.
In addition, the Miami-Dade budget would boost the district’s rainy-day reserve to $56.5 million.
Carvalho has set aside an additional $50 million to protect the workforce from any future funding cuts from Tallahassee.
And an additional $25 million fund will safeguard the district from a decline in property tax revenues, Carvalho said.
RELIES ON STIMULUS
The budget relies heavily on federal stimulus dollars. The funds will save more than 2,000 positions, Chief Financial Officer Richard Hinds has said.
Still, school district officials continued to exercise caution about the stimulus money — which will run out in two years.
While the School Board will not finalize the budget until September, Carvalho said he was pleased with Tuesday’s votes.
”In the midst of the Great Depression of our lifetime, we came together and approved a budget that protects the workforce and protects the classroom,” he said.