(1) There is created the Small School District Stabilization Program to assist school districts in rural communities that document economic conditions or other significant community influences that negatively impact the school district. The purpose of the program is to provide technical assistance and financial support to maintain the stability of the educational program in the school district. A rural community means a county with a population of 75,000 or less; or a county with a population of 100,000 or less that is contiguous to a county with a population of 75,000 or less.
(2) In order to participate in this program, a school district must be located in a rural area of critical economic concern designated by the Executive Office of the Governor, and the district school board must submit a resolution to the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development requesting participation in the program. A rural area of critical economic concern must be a rural community, or a region composed of such, that has been adversely affected by an extraordinary economic event or a natural disaster or that presents a unique economic development concern or opportunity of regional impact. The resolution must be accompanied with documentation of the economic conditions in the community, provide information indicating the negative impact of these conditions on the school district’s financial stability, and the school district must participate in a best financial management practices review to determine potential efficiencies that could be implemented to reduce program costs in the district.
(3) The Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development, in consultation with the Department of Education, shall review the resolution and other information required by subsection (2) and determine whether the school district is eligible to participate in the program. Factors influencing the office’s determination may include, but are not limited to, reductions in the county tax roll resulting from business closures or other causes, or a reduction in student enrollment due to business closures or impacts in the local economy.
(4) Effective July 1, 2000, and thereafter, when the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development authorizes a school district to participate in the program, the Legislature may give priority to that district for a best financial management practices review in the school district, subject to approval pursuant to s. 1008.35(7), to the extent that funding is provided annually for such purpose in the General Appropriations Act. The scope of the review shall be as set forth in s. 1008.35.
(5) Effective July 1, 2000, and thereafter, the Department of Education may award the school district a stabilization grant intended to protect the district from continued financial reductions. The amount of the grant will be determined by the Department of Education and may be equivalent to the amount of the decline in revenues projected for the next fiscal year. In addition, the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development may implement a rural economic development initiative to identify the economic factors that are negatively impacting the community and may consult with Enterprise Florida, Inc., in developing a plan to assist the county with its economic transition. The grant will be available to the school district for a period of up to 5 years to the extent that funding is provided for such purpose in the General Appropriations Act.
(6) Based on the availability of funds, the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development or the Department of Education may enter into contracts or issue grants necessary to implement the program.