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School board moves forward with plan for half-cent sales tax

Despite pushback, Duval County Public Schools still wants measure on Nov. ballot

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Despite concern from members of the Jacksonville City Council and people in the community, Duval County Public Schools decided Tuesday to push forward with its plan of asking for a half-cent sales tax measure to a special election ballot in November.

The tax would last 15 years, and the revenue would go toward repairing and replacing the county's aging schools.

The draft proposal that was presented would have supported a November 2020 referendum, but the school board decided against waiting the additional year. Board Chair Lori Hershey said the proposal would be a nod to the City Council that the school board is open to an alternate date.

"The meeting that the superintendent and I had with the City Council president and the mayor, the date was an issue," Hershey said. "So it was an opportunity for the board to have that discussion after an official opinion had come out that the City Council did in fact have the ability to change the date."

School board members who were against waiting until 2020 said the conversation was premature and would be more appropriate if the City Council eventually decides on a date other than November 2019. Hershey said there could be consequences and the measure might not make it on the ballot.

Hershey urged school board members to schedule meetings with city leaders.

"The reason for the urgency with 2019, as was shared during the discussion today, is the fact that we are spending a half-million dollars a month currently addressing facilities' needs in our schools as well as the fact that over the next five years we will see about $1 billion in backlog of maintenance needs," she said.

The school board decided to revisit the conversation after the City Council meeting on June 11, when there will be public comment on the legislation.