Dozens tell City Council half-cent sales tax should go to ballot

Money would be used for repairs, reconstruction of aging Duval County schools

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Nearly everyone who gave their two cents on a half-cent sales tax during a Jacksonville City Council meeting on Tuesday said they were in favor of letting the voters decide on the measure.

City Council heard public comments on the bill that's moving through City Hall. The tax would fund repairs, reconstruction and consolidation of aging public schools in Duval County.

"I want to put this referendum up to the voters. It is their job to decide if the plan is what they like or do not like," Darlene Miller said during public comment.

Miller was the first of dozens who spoke to the City Council, setting the tone of those who followed. Nearly everyone asked for the chance to make a decision on the local option half-cent sales tax.

"We're letting our schools deteriorate, and we're not spending the money on the investments that we need to spend," said Rick Robinson with the Northside Coalition. "I urge the council to schedule a referendum without delay."

RELATED: Superintendent recommends scrapping some consolidation plans
IMAGES: Duval County schools showing signs of age & disrepair

"Think of it this way: 29 of your 31 hurricane shelters are public schools. Hurricane season just started. So, where are they going to go if the schools are not solid?" said Tim Miller.

"If we really want to step up our game and give back to our students, we're going to have to make a bold move and at least put this on the ballot," said Latrice Carmichael, a parent. "Let the parents and the community members and everybody else have a voice. Let us say what we want because we cannot keep failing our students."

City Council did not vote on the measure Tuesday night. It could happen in another two weeks.

Only 14 of the 19 council members attended.

An updated version of the school district's plan to revamp the schools was presented at a workshop Tuesday, and it involved several big changes.

About the Authors:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.