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St. Johns Co.: Schools can't keep up with growth

School Board Chair: Bubble is getting ready to burst'

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – St. Johns County residents will soon decide whether there will be a half-cent sales tax to help pay for schools.

The resolution will be on the ballot this fall.

St. Johns County currently has a 6 percent sales tax.

In most Northeast Florida counties, including Duval, the sales tax is 7 percent.

St. Johns County School Board Chairwoman Beverly Slough said the county is growing at an exponential rate.

"Just last year, we opened 2 K-8 schools and this year, as we welcomed students back, both of those schools have relocatable classrooms," Slough said. "One of them has 20 and another one has 12, and the schools are not even a year old yet."

Slough said she hopes taxpayers will vote in favor of the half-cent sales tax resolution.

"We're two schools behind right now, today, and that's before we absorb the growth that's coming this summer," Slough said. "Theoretically, we could be four schools behind at this time next year. We anticipate within the next 10 years that we're going to need 20 new schools."

If voters pass the tax, it would be in effect for 10 years and is expected to generate about $13 million a year.

Slough said by law, "the money would only be allowed to be used for capital expenses which means building schools, renovating schools, technology, safety issues like GPS on buses, for example."

The County Commission approved a measure that will put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot, after commissioners voted against a 1-cent sales tax proposal weeks ago.

Without the half cent sales tax, Slough said elective classes and advanced placement classes could become overcrowded, since they are not subject to the restrictions of the class-size amendment.

More children will also have to be educated in relocatable classrooms as opposed to the core space, explained Slough.


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