Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told a Senate budget panel Thursday that funding would be “woefully short” next year if lawmakers do not use an increase in property tax collections to support schools.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed budget for 2018-2019 includes a $200 increase in per-student funding for the kindergarten-through-high-school system. Scott wants to increase the overall K-12 budget by $770 million, which includes a $450 million increase in “required local effort” property taxes.

While the amount of collections would go up, the school districts would retain the same tax rate. The increase in collections would be the result of rising property values and new construction.

House leaders have successfully opposed using the increase in so-called RLE tax collections the past two years, arguing such a move would represent a tax hike. The projected increases were offset by tax-rate reductions in the last two state budgets, forcing lawmakers to shift other state money into schools to boost funding.

In a meeting of the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford asked Stewart about Scott’s proposal to maintain the RLE rate to provide more school funding next year.

“Should property taxes increase as we expect they will, that allows us to be able to increase this budget to historic levels of state funding, total funding and per-student funding,” Stewart said.

Under Scott’s proposal, total K-12 funding would increase to $21.4 billion, including $11.9 billion in state money. Per-student funding would increase to $7,497, up from $7,297 in the current year.

“We would find ourselves unable to do that if we did not leave the RLE (rate) at the current level,” Stewart said. “And we would find ourselves woefully short because there is not enough state funding to be able to

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