While Lake County schools and some other districts in Florida struggle with tough budget decisions, Orange County Public Schools are expecting an $84 million operating budget increase for 2013-14.
Most of the increase in the district budget, which was about $1.5 billion last year, is earmarked for teacher and principal salary increases, increased pension contributions and employee insurange. About $20 million will go to the district for an increase of as many as 3,000 students.
Budgeting this year is "a fairly pleasant process for this board," said district Superindendent Barbara Jenkins. Although department budgets are essentially flat, the district isn't facing cuts the way some school systems are. She attributed that to a one-mill tax voters approved in 2010 and increased funding from the state.
Rick Collins, Orange's Chief Financial Officer, called 2013 a "transitional" year in which declining budgets have stopped. "That slide is beginning to stop and things are starting to turn around" in property values, a national trend, he said.
The district is also seeing an increase in funding per pupil.
Collins also highlighted several other notable cost increases, including $1 million for an additional elementary school, $600,000 for high school summer guidance counselors, $1.3 million for expanded professional development, $5 million in non-recurring costs for safety and security enhancements and $10.8 million to pilot digital curriculum in several schools.
The draft capital budget shows a major dropoff in funding after the district's half-penny sales tax runs out in 2016. K-8 schools for Wedgefield and Parramore are included. The Audubon Park K-8, scheduled to begin design in 2017 and construction in 2018, could only be moved forward with additional funding, Jenkins said.