The Monroe County School Board on Tuesday evening unanimously agreed to the millage rates proposed at the July 23 board meeting. District 1 member Robin Smith-Martin did not attend.
Those rates, in the order in which they were voted upon, included a local required effort of 1.933, a local board discretionary tax of .748, a capital outlay tax of .5, and finally, a voter-approved millage of .5, for a grand total of 3.681.
"Over the last five years, from 2008 to 20012, school taxes are down overall, because the School Board cannot raise taxes to achieve rollback," Chairman Andy Griffiths said after the meeting.
Rollback is the rate that would generate the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year.
"Since property values have been going down, cities and counties have been able to raise the millage to bring in the same income and announce they've achieved rollback. School boards are unable to do this, because the state sets the local required effort portion, and the School Board's portion is maxed out by law."
District 3 member Ed Davidson agreed with Griffiths' assessment.
"We don't have any choice ... in this part of the taxes we pay," Davidson said.
As Griffiths pointed out, 65 out of 67 school boards in the state last year were at the maximum millage allowed by law, and likely to continue the trend this year.
"Because we have no opportunities to bring in revenue, we sink, whereas cities and counties are able to increase their millage and bring in the same amount of dollars as before, essentially treading water," Griffiths said. "We will never catch up from the losses of the last five years."
Due to Monroe County's unique geography, the School District added a third budget meeting -- which is not required by law -- to give more of the public the opportunity to ask questions about the budget.
That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at Coral Shores High School in Tavernier.
A final hearing and vote on the budget will be on Sept. 3 in Marathon.
Also on Tuesday, the board voted to approve Brett Unke as the new principal of Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon. Unke, one of three local candidates for the job, has been assistant principal at Horace O'Bryant Middle School and at Switlik. He'll be working under an 11-month contract worth $88,611.
"He's no stranger to the community, as he served as an assistant principal there for five years," Griffiths said.
Superintendent Mark Porter praised Unke and the other candidates for the job, calling them an "outstanding" field of applicants.
Unke, who takes over from Principal Lesley Salinero, beat out Marathon Middle/High School Assistant Principal Liz Logan, Sugarloaf School Assistant Principal Wendy McPherson and former Plantation Key School Principal Sandi Bisceglia.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, representatives of the Key West Montessori Charter School, including board President Lynn Barras, took the podium to ask board members to consider allowing the school to expand into the remaining parts of the former May Sands School complex that it does not currently occupy. The move would displace the offices of the Literacy Volunteers of America.