News Cast for September 22nd:

Student enrollment declines

The Okeechobee County School Board ratified a near $211 million dollar budget this year.  The amount of local property taxes collected will increase by $2.5 million to $23.66 million of by 5.24 percent.

Student enrollment is also going down about 102 students to 6,451 students much of it due to private schools and home schooling.

Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy has concerns about the costs of the new high school growing due to inflation.

“There is a worry about being able to fund the new high school.  Were expecting the high school cost to be a little larger than what we have the funds for right now due to construction inflation.”

The state will provide $39 million for the overall budget.

“We ended up getting a little more money from the state with the increase in base student allocation.  That money can be used for teacher and non-instructional salaries and curriculum, and student initiatives.”

Salary adjustments will be determined in union negotiations.  A session was planned for this week.

In other actions the school board honored Jon Enrico who retires after 23 years of service.

They also are a certified master board after training and education provided through the Florida Schools Board Association.

Everglades Elementary School Advisory Council member Michelle Cohen was named volunteer of the year for the school district.

The Florida Cabinet approved nearly $37 million in conservation easements for the Adams Ranch in Osceola County and the Buck Island Ranch in Highlands County.

Some 13,000 acres of working cattle ranches will be protected from development.

The Adams Ranch in Kenansville measures nearly 8,900 acres while Buck Island measures some 4,400 acres.

Adams ranch includes cattle ranching, low intensity cow calf operation, sod harvesting, and native plant material for landscaping.  It is part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.  It is the fourth conservation easement on the ranch and about 60 percent of the acres are not under conservation.

The money comes from the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

Buck Island Ranch is also within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.  It is used for research and cattle grazing.  It is the second conservation easement approved for this property.

Several trailers and vehicles were broken into in a fenced in yard at Century Link at 899 NW 6th Steet late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Okeechobee Police Detective Savanna Yates said a lot of equipment was stolen.

“$43,000 is the estimate at this time.  It is expected to increase.  That doesn’t include drills, hand held tools, and lights.  This is the majority of the big items we can account for right now.”

Det. Yates is asking homeowners in that area to check their home camera footage and ring door-bell video to see if it captured anything of interest between 8 pm Tuesday and 6 am Wednesday. 

The suspect or suspect may have used NW 6th Street, NW 9th Street, or even NW 9th Avenue to flee the area after the burglary.

The police do report an increase in recent thefts in the city.

Former America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh and Attorney General Ashley Moody joined forces to encourage more anonymous crime tips.  ** Tips was launched in 2020 and last year Florida Crime Stoppers received over 59,000 tips which led to some 2,700 arrests.

Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said this could help stop future mass shootings.

“How many times after these incidents does somebody comes forward and says I knew that was going to happen.  Why didn’t you tell someone.  Because they are afraid somebody will find out that they did report it.  It’s a loved one, school mate or a co-worker.  Crime Stoppers is more important than ever to help prevent crime, report them anonymously, and give us a chance to stop these things before they happen.”

Over $987,000 in rewards were paid out last year.

By Taylor