Will Clay County use half-cent tax to fund crumbling schools?

Tax increase would fund renovations, upgrades, construction

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Residents in Clay County could soon be voting on a half-cent sales tax increase to help fix aging public schools and build new ones.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the same topic is being debated in Duval County. It’s not on the agenda for discussion during Tuesday night’s Jacksonville City Council meeting, but school district leaders and referendum supporters are hoping it gets brought up.

Education and religious leaders and public officials are pushing for the council in Jacksonville to vote on putting a referendum on a half-cent sales tax to fund school facilities before voters in November.

Pictures from the Clay County School District shows dilapidated and rusted school equipment in Clay County schools. During Thursday’s board meeting, the district could vote on a resolution for a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for renovations, upgrades and construct new schools.

WATCH: Comparing proposed half-cent sales tax referendums in Duval and Clay counties

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The Clay County School Board said there are 42 public schools in the county. The oldest is 92 years old. Upgrades would cost about $350 million.

Because of projected growth over the next five to 10 years, the district expects to pay an additional $300 million.

Clay County School Board Chairwoman Carol Studdard said the board is getting less money from the state, and the board is running out of options.

“We have air conditioners that we hope every day don’t break. We have ceilings falling in. We’re using $5 million a year to pay our debt service off,” Studdard said. “There’s just nowhere else to get the money to provide the schools that our students deserve.”

In 2018, a property tax passed to pay for safety and security upgrades. 

If approved, the resolution says the tax would go into effect in January 2020.

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