Published: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
Budget on floor for public debate By CATHI CARR Sun staff writer Soon after teachers and career service personnel return to schools Aug. 12, their paychecks should soon reflect their new two-step increases in pay, a $2.5 million cost covered by the Alachua County School Board in its tentative 2002-03 budget.
In addition to single ticket items, the public will have a chance to discuss the School Board's overall tentative $276.7 million budget and slight increase in property taxes at a hearing at 5:30 p.m. today.
Other expenses in the budget include $1.7 million for materials and supplies, partly for the district's first new reading textbook series in elementary schools in 13 years.
Another $1.9 million in purchased services is an item that Alachua County Education Association President Gunnar Paulson intends to question.
"I want to know why purchased services increased $2 million," said Paulson, who also wants to know about the district's food services budget, which he said has a balance of $1.7 million.
"I think we're paying energy bills out of the general fund for food service, and I think it might be close to a million dollars," said Paulson, who has scrutinized the electric and gas bills for 18 schools.
Paulson suggests the district install separate electric and gas meters for lunchrooms at each school to help solve the problem.
While the budget will still be tight, the 2002-03 budget approved by the Legislature restored state funding levels to what was originally given to school districts in 2001-02, officials said.
The state had to reduce funding for school districts and other agencies last year following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
With the proposed property millage rate set at the maximum allowed by law, a homeowner with a $100,000 house and a $25,000 homestead exemption can expect to pay $2.25 more in school taxes compared with last year. The tax would go from $782.70 last year to $784.95 this year.
If the value of housing assessments increase, however, some taxpayers will see even a greater increase in taxes.
The public hearing will be held in the board room at the Kirby-Smith Center at 620 E. University Ave.
Cathi Carr can be reached at 374-5086 or

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