School board told Jacksonville City Council must approve sales tax referendum

Duval school leaders propose half-cent sales tax to fund school renovations

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Duval County School Board was told Monday that the Jacksonville City Council will make the ultimate decision regarding whether to place a half-cent sales tax referendum to fund repairs and replacements of schools before voters.

A representative from the city’s general counsel told the board that if it approves a resolution to move forward with the referendum at its meeting Tuesday, it would be up to City Council to decide whether to put the referendum on the ballot and when.

The board is asking for a vote in a special election this November, with the tax going into effect Jan. 1, 2020. But if the council decided to wait until the next general election, that wouldn’t be until November 2020, which would delay potential collection of taxes another year.

Board member Ashley Smith Juarez stressed the importance of the school board moving forward with this process with the City Council through a partnership. She also mentioned a change to law made in the recent session by lawmakers in Tallahassee that would require any sales tax referendum to be voted on in the next general election.

DOCUMENT: General counsel's memorandum on sales surtax

The half-cent sales tax would generate about $80 million a year of revenue that would go toward the facilities master plan. The money would fund renovations to dozens of Jacksonville’s aging public schools, consolidate schools and build new ones.

Board Chair Lori Hershey said these conversations can be difficult to have and that she was pleased the current board was finally moving forward with something that she expects will be historic for Duval County Schools and the city of Jacksonville as a whole.

Board member Elizabeth Andersen asked why discussion of a half-cent sales tax to raise money for the district had never come up before so many of the districts' schools fell into disrepair.

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