City Council gets look at sales tax legislation for schools

Tax would pay for much-needed repairs, school board says

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new tax to repair schools in Duval County is taking a step closer to reality. Legislation was introduced to the City Council during a first reading Tuesday night that will allow the measure to go on the ballot in November.

At that point, voters would decide if a half-cent sales tax increase could be used to pay for school repairs and improvements in Duval County.

Even though it’s a School Board issue, the City Council has to decide if the measure can go on the ballot for a special election in November.

DOCUMENT: Proposed City Council resolution

City Councilman Reggie Gaffney spoke briefly Tuesday night, saying he had some concerns. He said he wants to organize a meeting where he and other members of City Council can learn specifics about what the Duval County School Board would do with the money they want to raise with the half-cent sales tax.

Board Chair Lori Hershey, Dr. Diana Greene, the school superintendent, Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the resolution.

The proposed tax would bring in about $80 million a year and would pay for the estimated $1.9 billion facilities master plan, which would renovate, replace and consolidate the city’s aging schools -- the oldest in the state, on average.  

The proposal says the district will consolidate small schools for improved learning and operation efficiencies. It will also build new schools in needed areas to bring equality to education across the city.

The Duval County School Board is listed as the author of the legislation.

In the past, some City Council members, including outgoing president Aaron Bowman, have told News4Jax there is concern about the plan, and they are not sure if a special election just to decide this issue is feasible.

There will be a public hearing on the referendum proposal next month, then two separate committees will debate it before the full council votes on whether to place the issue on the ballot for voters. 

If the referendum gets the thumbs up from City Council, it could go to voters in November, when they would decide whether to approve the half-cent sales tax.

Duval County Public Schools has set up a website about the proposed half-cent sales tax, which has information about why it's being proposed, what the tax would do for public schools and how improved buildings help students succeed. 

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