Duval school board presses forward with half-cent sales tax plan

Board voted 6-1 in favor of referendum

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Duval County School Board decided on Tuesday to move forward with a half-cent sales tax referendum, which would fund repairs and replacements of Jacksonville schools.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of the resolution. School board member Charlotte Joyce was opposed.

"I don’t want to be in such a hurry to address this need that I rush past the concerns shared by my community," Joyce said. "Before we ask the citizens of Duval County to pay more taxes, I recommend we continue to engage our city stakeholders, and approve a master facilities plan."

Ultimately, the Jacksonville City Council will decide whether to place the referendum on a ballot. The school board is asking for a special election this November, with the tax going into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

If the council waits until the next general election, that wouldn't be until November 2020, which could delay the potential collection of taxes by a year.

"I just think this is a historic moment," said Board Chairwoman Lori Hershey. "I'm just so excited to think that as I have young adult children who live here ... that in the future (can) say, 'We were apart of that' is very exciting.

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene on Monday discussed how the district can remove, consolidate and/or replace the aging buildings.

During Tuesday's meeting, she said the average age of school facilities is 44 years and the overall average maintanance costs are about $500,000 monthly. Greene pointed to resource efficiency, increased student programming and increased school options as factoring into a need for new revenue, and new school buildings.

Greene says updated facilities will have a positive impact in several areas, including student and teacher safety and student learning.

The superintendent will attend a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Raines High School, where she will review proposed plans for addressing aging school buildings in that area and gather input and suggestions from the public regarding the plan.

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