Beverly Anders is pleased that, for all the challenges brought by the pandemic during the last school year, the Monroe County School Board is in the final stages of producing a balanced budget for the 2021-22 school year.

And the board accomplished that while also allotting $2 million to $2.5 million for employee raises in the school district.

“It is balanced and that’s the most important thing,” Anders, the school board’s Executive Director of Finance and Performance, said after Tuesday’s, July 27, board meeting in Key West. “And if you have a homestead exemption in the county, your school taxes will be coming down.”

Rising property values in Monroe County are a contributing factor to the financial health of the school district.

“We’ll collect more tax revenue with a lower millage rate due to property value increases,” Anders said.

She noted a 6% property tax values increase, and a 3.2840 millage levy.

Anders reported that the Monroe County School District had a $12.03 million total fund balance as of June 30. She said the final budget would be voted upon at the Sept. 7 school board meeting.

In other action, Superintendent of Schools Theresa Axford said Florida Department of Health in Monroe County Administrator Bob Eadie will attend the school board’s next meeting Aug. 10 in Marathon. He will discuss COVID-19 regulations and considerations for re-opening the schools August 12.

“I’ll work with each of you prior to that meeting,” Axford told school board members.

She noted, “Our mask policy will be optional.”

Axford said that the school district had a 3% infection rate (286 positive tests among 8,700 total tests) “without vaccines” during the last school year.

District 5 board member Sue Woltanski noted the documented uptick in COVID cases since July 4 in Monroe County, Florida, and across the nation. She stressed the need for “layers of mitigation,” particularly for children 12 and younger not being vaccinated.

Board chair John Dick added, “Parents know what’s best for their children.”

The school district has a tab at the top of its website (www.keysschools.com) dealing with COVID-19, including communication coordinator for COVID-19 response Becky Herrin’s updates and information.

The first school board meeting after classes begin is scheduled for Aug. 24 at Coral Shores High School in Tavernier.