COMMENTARY: Our #2 Schools Spend More Than the #1 Schools

By Richard Lamken 

Schools division lead in County Citizens Defending Freedom

Nassau County School District is # 2 in the state and aspires to be # 1. St. Johns is the # 1 county in Florida for K-12 Education.

Nassau spends $8,619 per student and St. Johns spends $8,050 per pupil.

That is to say, St. Johns spends $569 less per pupil or 7.1% less than Nassau County. With our current enrollment of 12,587, that’s an excess of almost $7.2 million per-pupil spending vs. St. Johns.

St. Johns also pays its teachers more than Nassau. A teacher with 20 years’ experience in St. Johns makes 7.6% more than in Nassau.

Add $7.2 million in excess spending to the $9 million in new state funding that Nassau County will receive from the for 2022-2023, that’s $16.2 million that gives us the opportunity to pay fair and competitive salaries to our teachers and our support personnel and still have money to address issues like the arts and school safety. 

Do we really need a 1 mil tax increase, or do we already have the money and just need to manage our spending more effectively?

Based on our organization’s analysis, we have the money to compensate our employees well using only our current local, state and federal revenues and still achieve our stated goal of being # 1 in the state. 

Imagine how many dollars could be uncovered by a citizens budget advisory committee given access to the entire $250 million budget. Citizens deserve a voice in determining how well the school district budget meets the needs of our children, reflects the priorities and values of our community, adequately compensates our teachers and protects our students.

We have volunteers willing to serve who are skilled at finding inefficiencies, redundancies, and overspending and who are experts in the school budget process.

We too are all about becoming the best school district, and we don’t limit ourselves to just being the best in Florida.

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anonymous (@guest_66255)
1 year ago

Using average salaries and per pupil spending data as your basis of analysis provides no insight into the efficiencies of a school district’s expenditures. School districts vary in the condition of their buildings and maintenance costs, their geographic size and transportation costs, their rate of population growth and need to construct new facilities etc. Nassau has invested in school safety; do parents want less? One also needs to consider where the teachers are finding better paying jobs. Duval’s average salary for example, is almost $3,600 more than Nassau.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes (@guest_66256)
1 year ago

One cannot fairly compare the two school districts, especially as the tax base, demographics, and needs differ. Vote Yes on the referendum for our county’s future.

Anthony Battaglia
Anthony Battaglia (@guest_66257)
1 year ago

Great article. In my opinion, I would rather look at wasteful spending and have the experts look at the budget before just raising taxes.

anonymous (@guest_66263)
1 year ago

I have conducted management and performance reviews in school districts all over the country. The school district budget is highly visible and not full of the fat implied by this article.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_66261)
1 year ago

A link to the CCDF’s website. Draw your own conclusions.

1 year ago

Very interesting…

Yvonne Diamico
Yvonne Diamico (@guest_66265)
1 year ago

Totally agree. Taxpayers deserve to have a voice in the spending of their money. Amazing how others can spend taxpayer money with no accountability.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
1 year ago

I’m delighted to have this forum to converse with others looking at this. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I would truly like to know more about planned expenditures from the school board in case this amendment passes.
When did the Nassau County, FL School Board begin paying for athletic uniforms? Which athletic groups will be provided with uniforms?
I’ve lived in this fine county since I was 10 yrs old, coming from Duval. While in high school I marched in the band at West Nassau and fondly remember those days. However, I also remember that we had Booster Clubs that worked to raise money to pay for our uniforms, pay the school bus drivers if we had any away games, etc.
Now, this Amendment vaguely mentions that this additional tax is going to pay for athletic uniforms.
So far, I’m not convinced and will be voting NO.
I’m inviting anyone and everyone that reads this to help me better understand. Thank you….

Tom smith
Tom smith(@high-n-dry)
1 year ago

What is wrong with accountability? If you specifically went over the budget and found no issues, you can’t do math.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom smith

Tom, One important point that I forgot to mention yesterday is all about accountability. I’m sure most all of you have received a mailer delivered to your mailbox. It was a nice, card stock paper mailer that was bigger than a normal envelope. He’s my question for today: WHO paid for those advertisements to be mailed out and at what cost? See, it’s easy to spend other people’s money, then have your hand out, wanting more.
I’m suggesting there is plenty of waste that could be trimmed if there is money for political mailers. This shines a negative light on the School Board.

Jim Glackin
Jim Glackin (@guest_66291)
1 year ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Any mailings and the signs you see were paid for by a PAC that supports this referendum. Individuals have made donations to the PAC.

NCSD is prohibited from spending money in order to support the referendum. Employees are allowed to do as they please, but not in an official capacity or on school time, only as private citizens on their own time.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Glackin

Thank you, Jim. I appreciate your response.

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Glackin

The identity of the PAC? Yes, individuals can make donations to a PAC, but so can businesses. It would be helpful to understand the scope of those donations.

JENNIFER WILDES(@gokycats67yahoo-com)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom smith

Please check out CCDF. They have aspirations to control our school board.

Jim Glackin
Jim Glackin (@guest_66275)
1 year ago

Where did you get your per pupil funding numbers? Looking at the FEFP 2nd calculation for this year (link below). Nassau is at $8142 and St. John’s is at $8080, a $62 difference. St. John’s is roughly three times the enrollment of Nassau which allows them to achieve some economies of scale. One specific high school example. For Nassau, a financially wise choice would be to not allow AP classes that can’t be filled to the max class size of 25. That doesn’t make it the right choice for our students. I doubt St. John’s needs to make those choices.

While I support your desire for financial oversight, your position to not support the 1 mill tax increase is only going to make a bad situation worse. Some say this fix is a band aid. Yes it is. But it is a band aid we need to slow the exodus of staff until more permanent fixes can be made.

Mark Ericson
Mark Ericson (@guest_66289)
1 year ago

Please name the “experts in the school budget process” who you have in mind and their qualifications. Also, I have to say that I do not want a so-called outside committee deciding the “priorities and values of the community.” My priorities and values may not be your priorities and values. Who decides community priorities and values? That is a slippery slope that we should not want to go down.

Gary Martin
Gary Martin (@guest_66294)
1 year ago

Since moving to Nassau County four years ago, I’ve been disappointed to see local and county government raise taxes more than incrementally. 

“Government works best when changes occur incrementally.” Citizens of Nassau County can accept incremental change, but not a 44% increase in one fell swoop. 

How is it anything other than greed or incompetence to ask voters to approve a 44% increase in property tax for schools? Our seniors do not get relief from the school portion of property tax bills. 

This tax increase is especially egregious coming at the tail end of a pandemic, and the beginning of a recession.

I trust Nassau County voters will vote no on November 8th and send a strong message that anything other than incremental change to school funding will not be tolerated.

Jim Glackin
Jim Glackin (@guest_66298)
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Martin

I tell my AP Statistics students every year that statistics never lie, but people do. The property appraiser’s office has published numbers in order to create bias in the response.

Yes the 44% number is correct, but that is only when you use the local portion of the school board tax. If you use both the state and the local portion of the school board tax, it is a 17% increase. But that number doesn’t really tell the whole story either. If you look at the total school board tax historically, they have gone down from 8.081 mills in 2005 to 5.88 this year. If the referendum passes, the rate will be 6.88, which puts us back to roughly 2016 levels.

The most important piece he leaves out is how much are we really talking about. If your post exemptions assessed value is $300,000, your school board portion of your taxes will go up $300.

I think our students are worth it.

Virgil Stumbo
Virgil Stumbo (@guest_66309)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Glackin

A Benefit for teachers that is not talked about butt is part of they’re income.
Health Care.
The Board provides for each regular full-time employee an annual amount of insurance benefits pro-rated to the annual length of employment and applied to the following Board approved group insurance plans. The Board’s contribution towards the insurance premiums is subject to the collective bargaining negotiation process.
Annually Health Insurance $7,458.24 Monthly $621.52 
Life Insurance $88.32