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'Ball's in City Council's hands' on Duval County school tax referendum

School Board provides 17-page response to 11 pages of questions

School Board provides 17-page response to 11 pages of questions.
School Board provides 17-page response to 11 pages of questions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County school leaders said the ball is in the hands of the Jacksonville City Council after the School Board answered 11 pages of questions from council members about the proposed half-cent sales tax the board still wants to put before voters this year.

The City Council sent the questions on June 26 and the school officials responded July 31 with 17 pages of answers and a copy of the Master Facilities Plan that the School Board approved early last month.

“It is our hope that we can resolve any lingering questions and work collaboratively on bringing this most important referendum to the voters," Superintendent Diana Greene wrote in the documents submitted Wednesday.

“We’ve responded to their requests and we’re looking forward with optimistic anticipation to their committee meetings on Tuesday," said Tracy Pierce, Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman. "Hopefully, they will give voters the opportunity to have their voices heard through the ballot box.”

But is it too late to get the referendum before voters this year?

"The early November date is out," Supevisor of Elections Mike Hogan told News4Jax, adding that the school board has not contacted him about any other date.

Council President Scott Wilson said he believes it will be extremely difficult to get the referendum on any ballot in 2019.

“The supervisor of elections already said he would need 120-150 days, so right now we would be very lucky to get it on a November ballot,” said Wilson. “It’s possible (in) December, but you have to realize a lot of families go on vacation in December. They have to bring in poll workers to watch the polls, and all of those employees may not be available for that time period."

Wilson said now that they have the responses from the School Board, he wants to set up a workshop between the two bodies to resolve outstanding questions.

“I had concerns. (Some schools) are being renovated and some schools are being rebuilt and I need to better understand the differences between those two schools,” said Wilson. “I also have a question about the cost to put it on the ballot. It’s about $1 million to put it on the ballot. (In) 2020, it wouldn’t cost us anything at all,” Wilson said.

The School Board has said since the beginning it would pay the cost of the referendum and since the district is paying $500,000 per month to maintain the old buildings, it doesn't want to wait a year before asking voters to fund the renovations and new construction.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.