ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua County Public Schools Board (ACPS) attended the Oct. 12 City of Alachua Commission meeting to inform and advocate for renewal of the One Mill for Schools initiative, which gives $1 per $1,000 of a property's taxable value to Alachua County Public Schools. The initiative is not a new tax and won’t mean an additional tax for property owners. The tax was initially passed in 2008 and is up for renewal every four years.
A school board spokesperson said state funding cuts due to COVID-19 have created a potential loss of $16 million this year in the county school budget. Unbudgeted COVID-19 expenses such as PPE, training, outfitting classes for in-person lessons and technology purchases for online learning have diverted funds to expenses that were not needed previously.
Unfunded and underfunded state mandates such as busing and safety/security have to be covered by the schools by law. While costs have increased and COVID-19 has added numerous unexpected expenses, there has been little change in state and national funding. Also there has been no discretionary lottery funding this year. Combined with state funding, especially after the Great Recession, there has only been a $33 increase per student since 2007-08, leaving county school boards scrambling for funds.
The One Mill tax initiative costs the average Alachua County homeowner less than $7 a month. Property owners will pay less in school property taxes this year than last year, even with the renewal of the One Mill.
The total One Mill spending in Alachua area schools in 2019-20 was $971,924. The funds are allocated to each school as needed. Much of the fund is used to fund teachers and technology. At Irby Elementary, the One Mill helps fund the salaries of five teachers and the purchase of 101 laptops and hotspots distributed for online learning.
At Alachua Elementary it funded the salaries of four teachers and the purchase of 82 laptops. Mebane Middle School covered the salaries of three teachers and the purchase of 114 laptops. At Santa Fe High School it helped fund the salaries of nine teachers and 115 laptops distributed to Santa Fe High School families this year.
In other business, Mayor Gib Coerper read a proclamation naming October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month & Alachua Goes Pink! Each year, October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness month to honor those who have lost lives to breast cancer, and recognize the survivors who still engage in the battle. Each year, the City of Alachua launches its annual "Alachua Goes Pink!" campaign, putting pink ribbons on fleet vehicles, the Alachua Police Department (APD) decaling one of its traffic units, and staff members wearing commemorative bracelets and pins to honor all those who have suffered from the disease.
The commission also proclaimed October as National Community Planning Month. While many people may not realize it, planning has a significant impact on their day-to-day life. From where they live, to how they commute, to the type of home they live in, planning plays a vital role in a person’s life and well-being. Through planning, strategic investments in innovation and infrastructure can boost economic growth and strengthen communities. Planning helps leverage public and private funds that lead to economically stable communities. This year, the theme is “Planning Is Essential to Recovery” and highlights how planning can lead communities to equitable, resilient, and long-lasting recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
October is also White Cane Month. Since 1964, by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, Oct. 15 of each year has been designated White Cane Safety Day. The month of October each year is also designated as White Cane Safety Month to bring more awareness to the dangers faced by the blind or visually impaired in dealing with navigating public streets and traffic.
The Commission proclaimed October as White Cane Safety Month and Oct. 15 as White Cane Safety Day to show the City's commitment to making the public aware of the "White Cane Law" and to the safety of the blind and visually impaired on Alachua's public streets.
The City also dedicated Oct. 19-25 as Florida City Government Week to help residents understand how their city operates, the services it provides, and the importance of their active involvement in city affairs. In the past, the City has sponsored activities and events for people to interact with City government. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and keeping the health and safety of residents in mind, they have canceled all in-person activities.
In other city business, the Commission approved three new members to the Youth Advisory Council (YAC). The purpose of the Council is to stimulate and foster the active participation of youth in addressing issues impacting the youth of the community. Members of the Council are required to be enrolled in a public school, private school or a home education program within the city of Alachua in grades nine through 12e or be a resident of the City of Alachua enrolled in such a school/program. The newly appointed members are Aidan Grosz and Jamie Morris, both 11th graders, and Laura Kleckner, a senior.
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