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School District presents preliminary budget

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 23, 2024

A preliminary 2025 budget for the School District of Lee County was discussed during a workshop Wednesday afternoon.

The working document currently does not include the same full-time equivalent student enrollment numbers as the state.

Budget Director Kelly Letcher said the state has not come to a final decision yet regarding full-time equivalent student enrollment. The district is recommending 107,642 for FTE, a 3.88% growth over the third calculation of this year, which is 4,016 students.

“Currently we have seen this year’s growth of 3,576 students,” Letcher said, adding it’s a 3.57% increase. “We do expect that to continue to grow.”

The largest increase the district is looking at right now is the English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, population, which is what staff is going back and forth with the state about.

Letcher said the governor’s budget, at the time it moved forward, showed the district at 106,632 FTE, which is about 1,010 students under what the district is projecting for the student population next year.

She said the budget also showed a base student allocation of $5,247.02, an increase of $107.

“In his budget, he did indicate a decline in our tax roll. I don’t believe we would be seeing a decline. It does appear it would be going up,” Letcher said.

In addition, the governor’s recommended budget has a total overall proposed increase of $33.7 million. The current year is $77 million.

“The governor’s budget really is no indication of where we will end up,” Letcher said.

The House and Senate budget also was discussed during the presentation, which did not include a breakdown by individual counties.

“I can only make assumptions,” Letcher said, adding that neither have finalized a FTE number.

Both the House and Senate are recommending a base student allocation increase of about $175.

“It seems like that is probably where we will land at,” she said.

The House is proposing that there will be no increase in the safe school and mental health allocation, while the Senate is proposing an increase for both areas.

Letcher said the House is showing an increase in educational enrichment and Exceptional Student Education, or ESE, guarantee allocation, both of which would be beneficial to Lee County.

Lee County is 3.46% of the total state allocation in the governor’s budget.

Using that logic, Letcher said the House would be an increase of approximately $54.9 million and the Senate a $51.8 million increase.

Chief Financial Officer Dr. Ami Desamours said between now and June the school board will hear additional information as they continue to build on the budget of Fiscal Year 2025.