School districts across the state are cashing in on settlements stemming from the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Miami-Dade County on Wednesday voted to accept $2.5 million to recoup revenue lost because of the 2010 offshore spill in the Gulf of Mexico — the worst ever. Neighboring Broward County did not file a claim, according to a spokeswoman there.
Since school districts are funded through the state, Miami-Dade and the other districts argued they also lost money because of the spill. Miami-Dade, the state’s largest school district, was the first school district to file a claim against BP, said School Board member Raquel Regalado.
“What happens in other parts of the state does impact us because of the way we receive our funds,” she said at a school board meeting Wednesday.
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Though confidentiality agreements make it difficult to track payments across the state, multiple school districts have recently voted to accept settlement agreements.
In Florida, Polk, Leon, Volusia, Lee and Palm Beach counties have all approved settlements ranging from $1 million to $2.5 million. The Jefferson Parish school board in Louisiana, the epicenter of the spill, was awarded almost $33 million last week, according to news reports.
The law firm Morgan & Morgan represented Miami-Dade and nine other school boards in the state. The firm will take a cut of the settlement payments.
“The school boards that did pursue claims in the state of Florida, I think, will greatly benefit from the settlement from BP,” said Frank Petosa, a partner with the law firm.
Also Wednesday, the Miami-Dade County School Board agreed with little discussion to advertise a maximum tax rate that is lower than last year.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the typical homeowner will save $29 under the proposed rate, despite rising property values.
“Taxpayers are going to win,” Carvalho said at a recent press conference.
The proposed rate of $7.72 per $1,000 of taxable property value can still be lowered as the budget process moves forward. The process includes two public hearings.
Tallahassee requires school boards to set a certain tax rate in order to benefit from state money. That rate is down from last year. Also down: the district’s own debt service — even amid a $1.2 billion capital campaign funded by general obligation bonds.
The first budget hearing is scheduled for July 29.
In addition, the board honored Sybrina Fulton for her advocacy after her son Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman, prompting the country to reflect on race relations. Martin was a Miami-Dade student at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High when he was fatally shot in 2012 by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
“When this unfortunate tragedy happened to my son, I can be the first one to tell you that I wanted to give up,” Fulton said Wednesday. “But I knew that, that would not make anything change.”
Fulton and her family have launched a foundation to bring attention to racial and gender profiling and how violence impacts families and children. School board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall presented Fulton with a proclamation recognizing her for her work.
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