School students will be commemorating 9/11 today

John Dick, board member of the Monroe County School Board, joined Good Morning Keys this morning on KeysTalk 96.9/102.7FM to talk about the school year.

There will be commemorations in the schools today for 9/11.

Dick said, “I would venture to say that we don’t have any students in the district that would have been alive at that time. So it’s important for us to explain and show them. I’ll be attending the ceremony at Marathon High School. The students from social studies classes, each class during the day will go to the auditorium and they’ll be presented with a little short film about what happened on 9/11. There’ll be speakers and people that were definitely involved one way or another or had a family member involved in the actual date 9/11 and what took place at the Twin Towers.”

Each student will have four names of one of the almost 3,000 people who died during the attacks and they will place a flag along the fence in front of a football field to honor each one.

Dick said, “On Thursday night there’s a football game and during halftime, they’ll bring out any first responders, police, firemen and military active, retired, will be brought out onto the field at halftime to celebrate them to show respect to what happened. And then the students in the community will stand up and see what this is all about. It’s part of America.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “It seems like New York is a far ways away from the Florida Keys, but there are so many people here that do have ties, including yourself, having been from New York. My brother worked in the World Trade Center was thankfully, not there that day, but lost many, many friends and loved ones during that tragedy. So thank you again, to the school districts for commemorating that.”

The tax bill has become a bit of an issue in the county.

Dick said, “I’m saying how could the school tax for these people go up like that? Well, what it is, is, first of all, I have to read a little short statement out of Florida Statute 190 3.1554 and that says, the non homesteaded cap limit increases in the assessed value to 10%. They cap it to 10% excluding school board assessments. School board assessments are taxed at 100% of the just value of the market value. So what that’s saying is the Florida Legislature a couple of years ago, we have the 3% Save a Home for all of us at that are homesteaders and then 10% for the non homestead. But when they made the exclusion of school board, this is another one of the unintended consequences, nobody thought that the values would jump at the astronomical rate they jumped in for some people. So what has happened is these ones where the school tax increased by these fast amounts, it’s because their property was reevaluated and when they reevaluated and now the full valuation goes to the school board. This was not something the school board did. This was something the legislature did. We have no control over this. So what I would say to people is first check on the reevaluation. Call the Property Appraiser and see why did the valuation go up so high? This is what’s happening here in Monroe County. It’s tough on people. I know one person that was renting apartments and they’ve got to raise the rent on people. So this is a vicious cycle and made the cost of living here still go up higher and higher. I hope that they really look into this, because it’s not just here in Monroe County. Property values all over Florida are increasing drastically. Because hey, Florida has done some good things in the last 10 years or so, and a lot of other states are doing some bad things, and people are coming here and that’s market driven. But it’s unfortunate for those of us living here that these values go up so fast, it’s never been good. It’s only good for those that want to sell.”

The final budget meeting for the school board was a week ago.

Dick said, “I am proud to say that we’ve got our starting teacher salary up to 61,500. We’re doing this with the tax increases, the funding increases that we get, we did lower our millage, but the funding comes in higher because of the property values. We use that to offset and pay our salaries so we can keep people here because it’s so tough. We’ve had teachers that just can’t afford to stay here, but when we give the salary increases, some of them can rethink it a little bit and stay here. I’m very happy to see that we are funneling that money to the salaries of people. We’re not wasting money. I think we’re good stewards of the taxpayers funding. So I’m very proud of that.”

The teachers got two different $5,000 increases over the last two years.

Dick confirmed, “One last year and one this year. I know we say teachers, but we we’ve increased the salary of all the employees. We do what we can for all.”

Some teachers have moved away because they couldn’t afford it.

Dick said, “We did have one teacher last year that had finally thrown in the towel and he quit and moved away. It was one of those hard to find positions, a vocational position. When we gave that raise in the middle of the year, the $5000, he called and said, hey, I can afford to make it with that. Can I come back? We hadn’t filled the position. Sure enough, yeah, come on back. He did. And we’re very, very happy. I will continue to push for the district to keep putting money into the salaries.”