WEST PALM BEACH — The School Board has unanimously approved a budget of more than $3.8 billion for the 2020-2021 school year.
The budget includes $2.2 billion for the district’s general fund for operational costs, and a $1 billion capital projects budget, net of transfers, for acquisition or construction of major capital facilities and improvements to existing facilities.
A resolution adopted by the school board levies a total millage rate of 7.010 mils, which raises $1.5 million in local property tax revenue. This tax rate is 0.154 mills less than the prior year.
The FY21 budget year is expected to be challenging due to the uncertainty about the severity and length of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help mitigate potential mid-year reductions estimated to be up to $91.5 million, the district prioritized saving as much as possible to establish a reserve in FY21.
As a result of proactive actions taken between March through June 2020, combined with savings from department reorganizations, the FY21 budget includes a reserve for state funding reductions and COVID-19 related costs of $42 million.
• $38 million investment in technology including purchasing 82,000 devices for students and teachers to facilitate a 1:1 ratio of devices during FY21, due to the virtual learning demands caused by COVID-19.
• $2.1 million for internet service for up to 20,000 students.
• $12 million in additional school-based costs for COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies.
• $39.9 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) Grant. Of that money, $33.8 million is for district-operated schools.
• $31.7 million for new state teacher salary categorical to increase teacher salaries. Of these funds, 80% must be used to raise minimum classroom teacher salary to $47,500. The remaining 20% of these funds may be used to raise the pay of veteran teachers and other instructional personnel including media specialists, guidance counselors, and other members of the teacher bargaining unit.
• Thanks to the 2018 referendum overwhelmingly approved by the residents of Palm Beach County, the budget continues to fund more than 200 school-based mental health positions, more than 750 elementary art, music, physical education, and choice and career academy teacher positions, additional school-based security initiatives and more than 12,000 teacher supplements.
The Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), consisting of seven private citizens appointed by the board members, supported the FY21 Budget recommendations. BAC meetings are open to the public and are available on the district’s website, for citizens who were unable to watch live.
The tentative FY21 budget was unanimously approved by the board during their meeting on July 29. The final budget was adopted at the board meeting Sept. 9.
To read the final FY 2021 budget, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/palmbeach/Board.nsf/files/BT4RMJ6EA904/$file/Executive_Summary_FY21_Final.pdf. The video of the budget presentation at the Sept. 9 meeting is also available.