Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funding Formula Favors Fast-Growing Counties

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Funding Formula Favors Fast-Growing Counties

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- When J. Allen Axson Elementary School was

built in Jacksonville 87 years ago, Broward County did not even

exist.

Broward, a sleepy, rural community of 4,763 when it was

established in 1915, is now a crowded urban county with twice

the population of Duval.

The problem facing Florida: How to keep up with construction

needs in fast-growing counties like Broward while rebuilding or

replacing aging structures in counties like Duval.

It could signal a battle between North Florida and South

Florida over the extra money the Legislature approves for school

construction in a one-week special session that begins today.

Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park, says North Florida has been

shortchanged for years under the state's funding formula because

it favors high-growth districts over more stable communities.

Try telling that to Broward County residents, who say their

school overcrowding problems are the worst in the state.

Although most attention leading up to this week's special

legislative session has been focused on how much school

construction money is needed and how it should be raised, the

issue of which counties will be the biggest beneficiaries is

lurking in the background.

School districts raise most of their construction money from

property taxes, with the rest coming from the state, which taps

auto license tag revenue and the gross receipts tax on

utilities. It also rebates the tax districts pay on gasoline for

school buses.

School systems also can raise money through bond issues, as

Duval County did 10 years ago, or through a locally imposed

half-cent sales tax. Both of those options require voter

approval.

The state distributes 40 percent of its contribution based on

student enrollment and 60 percent based on the growth rate.

Not only does the state's present distribution favor

high-growth counties, but South Florida districts are able to

raise much more money from their real estate taxes because of

the higher property values. …

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