Millage Facts


Earlier this year, the Bay County Commission approved the School Board's request to place a one millage increase in property tax referendum on the ballot for April 20, 2021.

The School Board has asked for the millage to address some serious inequities in our salaries, in our mental health and security allocation from the state and in our funding for full day pre-kindergarten programs.

We hope you will take a few minutes to read the documents, analyze the graphs and watch the videos so you can make an informed decision on April 20th.

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to learn about how an increase of one mill in property tax (about $8 a month for someone who owns a $100,000 home) can turn into significant improvements for the children and employees of our district. Click the link below to view the Millage Presentation.

 ESSER II Funding: What we can and cannot do with these funds




Salary Referendum 


(updated 3/12/2021)

1.  If I look at the budget for the past few years, it looks like salaries have increased across the board significantly already. How can you justify asking for a millage increase for salaries when the salary line item keeps increasing year after year?

The salary portion of the budget is based on two factors: 

  1. First, that line item is impacted simply by the number of people employed. If BDS hires more people, they will automatically generate a higher number from year to year. Secondly, the individual salaries of those people will also generate a higher number even if the number of those employed remains constant.  This line item increased dramatically due to the federal RESTART grant that the district received as a result of Hurricane Michael.  This grant was received in January of 2020 and was not initially budgeted in the 2019-2020 fiscal year as it was not known that we would be receiving it.  The amount budgeted for RESTART for 2020-2021 fiscal year was $27.5 million, with $17.3 million of that in salaries.  Student support services increased the most from RESTART due to the large allocation for mental health professionals and services.  This would represent a change due to the number of employees within the pool.  Additionally, raises in the amount of $3.4 million (approximately a 3 percent raise for each employee) were budgeted for all employees in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.  So, the number of employees overall grew and the amount of the salaries as a whole went up three percent which will result in an overall increase in this line item..
  2. Additionally, the Instructional Salary Budget line item includes not only teachers but all personnel whose primary job includes activities dealing directly with the teaching of students.  Many of our paraprofessionals are included in this function.  To indicate that these employees received a lower dollar raise due to a lower percentage increase is misleading.   As mentioned above the primary reason for the overall increase in salaries was NOT due to individuals receiving raises, it was the direct result of Hurricane Michael related federal and state grants that provided funds for additional employees desperately needed to provide support for the students in our district.  Secondly, the instructional function makes up approximately 70 percent of all district salaries.  Any percent change in this function results in a larger dollar amount proportionally than it does with any other function. 

2.      How can you justify an ever-increasing budget with a declining student population?

The budgeted total expenditures for ALL funds since 2016 are as follows:

2016-2017 - $318.6 million

2017-2018 - $334.5 million

2018-2019 - $345.6 million

2019-2020 - $398.4 million

2020-2021 - $480.4 million

The term “all funds” includes general fund, special revenue fund, federal and state grants including those directly related to Hurricane Michael, food service fund, debt service fund, capital projects fund, enterprise fund, and internal service fund.  An increase in capital funds was the primary reason for the changes between years 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.  An increase of $53 million in the general fund due to Hurricane Michael is driving the change for 2019-2020.  Hurricane Michael IS included in the general fund contrary to what some may have heard.  An increase of $77 million in capital funds is the driver for the change in 2020-2021.  This change is due to borrowing funds to build a new school.    

3.         The LCI millage went up from 1.34 to 1.5 and is up from 1.2 in 2016. When voters passed the half-cent sales tax it was said that would prevent the board from raising LCI. What happened?

Actually, the board at the time stated at the time that they hoped the half-cent sales tax would enable them to keep the millage the same or lower. In fact, the LCI millage was reduced from its all-time high of 2.0 in 2003-2006 and has remained as low as possible ever since. The LCI tax was increased in the 2020-2021 fiscal year for several reasons, the most compelling one being the unprecedented destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael.

FEMA is a reimbursement program.  We have to spend the funds first in order to receive any funds back.  We sometimes use LCI funds to facilitate this process.  FEMA reimbursements have been notoriously slow and LCI funds are being used to repair facilities that would otherwise sit untouched until FEMA decides to reimburse us.  For reference, only 7 districts out of the 67 levy a millage lower than the 1.50 mills. 


4.         Since the county’s tax base has grown by about 10 percent and is projected to continue that rate of growth, why can’t you just fund improvements to salaries with that money?

To really understand funding for Florida school districts, one needs to have a basic understanding of the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).  The FEFP was established in 1973 as a policy to equalize school funding and guarantee each student in the Florida public education system the availability of programs and services appropriate to his or her educational needs.  This means that regardless of geographical differences or local economic factors, all students within the state of Florida receive an equalized amount of funding.   Also, the FEFP is the primary mechanism for funding the operating costs of Florida school districts. 

The FEFP recognizes varying local property tax bases, varying educational program costs, and varying costs of living.  The FEFP has a local support portion and a state support portion.  Both of these portions together make up the total of the FEFP.

The local support portion is based on the Required Local Effort millage which comes from property taxes.  This millage is set by the state and all schools districts are required to levy their given millage.  This millage makes up 62 percent of our district’s current total millage levy (3.720 mills of the 5.968 mills) Districts that are “property rich” receive more local support and less state support.  And the opposite is true for those districts that have less of a tax base.  In other words, school districts do not benefit from Required Local Effort due to a higher tax base because the state will adjust their amount of support to offset any increases. 

A change in tax base will only affect operating discretionary millage and local capital improvement millage.  Bay County’s tax base increased 9.53 percent from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 ($17.2 billion to $18.8 billion).  The district received $3.2 million more in tax revenue from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 from these two levies due to the increase in tax base. At the same time, however, insurance and retirement costs have increased significantly as well with little to no accommodation for that in state funding.

5.         Why wasn’t $23 million in budgeted salary increases enough to give raises to all the teachers?

Increases in the salaried objects can be due to increases in individual salaries or an increase in the number of employees included in that object.  The latter was the primary reason for the increase in the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget due to RESTART.  Also, “teachers” did NOT receive the lowest amount of any increase that was given.  Using percentages only in this statement gives a misleading impression.  In fact, of the $3.4 million raise (approximately 3 percent) that was budgeted, the instructional group was budgeted at $2.8 million or 83 percent of the total raise amount.

6.         The last line of the wording on the millage makes it look like this money can be spent on anything. Why does it say: “And fund other operations that preserve school program.”? 

This sentence was added to the referendum for a few reasons.  One is that charter schools will receive their proportionate share of this tax and the district cannot limit these schools to what programs they will fund.  Secondly, as we have all seen in the last few years, unexpected things can and do happen.  The Superintendent and members of the Bay District School Board have clearly stated that the district will spend this funding on pay raises, early education, mental health, and safety.  Additionally, a Citizen’s Oversight Committee (similar to the one in place for the half-cent sales tax) will be formed to oversee the expenditures.

7.         It looks like Bay District Schools spends way more per student than other counties. Why is this?

Data from the 2018-2019 current expenditures report from DOE is the most recent data available but it does not include capital outlay FUND or debt service FUND.  It DOES include Hurricane Michael expenses.   The current expenditures used in this report is $287.7 million.  Hurricane Michael expenses for 2018-2019 fiscal year was $65.8 million.  After removing those expenses from the total, the district has $221.9 million of expenditures.  Based on an Unweighted Full Time Equivalent of 25,747.11, this equates to $8,620 per UWFTE.  This is comparable to our per UWFTE amounts for the prior 3 years.  Below are the numbers for three counties for the 2015-2016 fiscal year through 2017-2018 fiscal year.

2015-2016 school year: Bay - $8,387, Okaloosa - $8,788, Santa Rosa - $8,240

2016-2017 school year: Bay - $8,445, Okaloosa - $8,883, Santa Rosa - $8,109

2017-2018 school year: Bay - $8,749, Okaloosa - $8,881, Santa Rosa - $8,572

The reality is, school districts in Florida are funded the same.  We are all more similar than we are different in terms of revenue and expenses.

8.         Why does the data seem to indicate that BDS spends way more than surrounding counties per ESE student? From the general fund expenditures (which excludes capital expenses and Hurricane repairs) it looks like BDS spent $9116 per basic and ESL student, Santa Rosa spent $6270 per student, and the state average was $6902 per student.  For Exceptional Education students, the state average was $11,571 per student, BDS average was $16024 per student, and Santa Rosa was $12,396 per student. Why is this?

The best analogy to explain this situation can probably be found in the medical field. Three patients can be admitted to the hospital with the same basic issue and can have vastly different outcomes, experiences and final bills because of underlying conditions, overall health and other complicating factors.

The same is true when looking at ESE students. Students can be considered ESE because they need something as simple as extended time on testing but their needs could be as complicated as the full-time assistance of a one-on-one paraprofessional, a bus aide or even a full-time nurse.

The DOE actually uses a matrix of five levels to identify these needs, with level 1 representing the lowest level of service and level 5 representing the highest level of service. These levels are assigned different cost factors that are commensurate with the additional costs associated with these services, increasing with each level. The following are examples of students in each level:

=         Level 1 indicates that the student requires no services or assistance beyond those that are normally available to all students. For example, students identified as gifted, whose needs are being met through programs such as international baccalaureate, advanced placement or dual enrollment, fall under level 1.

=         Level 2 indicates the student is receiving assistance on a periodic basis or receives minor supports, assistance or services. For example, the student may require presentation, response, scheduling or setting accommodations; the use of an electronic device to record lectures; or need enrichment activities.

=         Level 3 indicates the student is receiving accommodations to the learning environment that are more complex or is receiving services on a more frequent schedule. For example, the student may require weekly assessment of behavior as part of a behavior intervention plan. The term collaboration, used consistently at Level 3, refers to a joint effort among teachers, family, agencies and other providers, and involves cooperative, proactive work on the part of all participants.

=         Level 4 indicates that for the majority of learning activities, the student is receiving specialized approaches, assistance or equipment, or is receiving more extensive modifications to the learning environment. Services received on a daily basis are generally included at this level. For example, the student may require supervision during the majority of activities for physical safety or assistance with activities of daily living that require frequent assistance from a staff member.

=         Level 5 indicates that the student is receiving continuous and intense (one-on-one or very small group) assistance, multiple services or substantial modifications for the majority of learning activities. For example, the student may receive a combination of services, such as suctioning and the delivery of medications that necessitates continuous monitoring and assistance.

Levels 1-3 are considered Basic Education with each UFTE weighted the same as a regular UFTE as well as earning the Guaranteed ESE Allocation (separately). Most students within this category are level 1 and earned the following ESE Guarantee per UFTE:

=         PK-3: $973

=         4-8:   $1,091

=         9-12: $777

Levels 4-5 earned the following per UFTE:

=         Level 4: $14,718

=         Level 5: $22,946

It is correct that both Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties had more Basic ESE students than Bay District Schools in the 2018-2019 school year. However, Bay District Schools had considerably more level 4 and level 5 UFTE in the 2018-2019 school year:


So, if you look at that chart, Bay District Schools has more than twice the number of Level 5 students in either Okaloosa or Santa Rosa and, actually, has more than twice as many Level 5 students as those counties combined. If you consider the huge disparity in the number of Level 4 and Level 5 students between BDS and the other two counties you can understand why the BDS budget is so much higher.


Furthermore, as previously stated, Hurricane Michael revenues and expenditures are included in the General Fund. This will result in skewed, incomparable data for the 2018-2019 school year until all related expenditures are complete.


1311 Balboa Avenue
Panama City, FL 32401
(850) 767-4100
William V Husfelt III
Superintendent, Bay District Schools
Office of the Superintendent
Shirley Byas
Equity Coordinator
Public Records Request