Joint meeting held to address half-cent tax referendum

Superintendent: 'My main concern is getting it on the ballot'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen Duval County School Board members and Jacksonville City Council Members met for a joint meeting Wednesday afternoon to further discuss a proposed half cent sales tax referendum.

It follows a City Council meeting Tuesday night where dozens of people said they were in favor of letting the voters decide on the measure.

City Councilman Reggie Gaffney called for the Wednesday meeting with Dr. Diana Greene, the school superintendent, to give her the opportunity to lay out the new Master Facilities Plan. 

During the joint meeting, council members spoke in favor of the plan and said it was needed, but they want to make sure it's not rushed.

The school district said it will pay for a special election, which would cost between $700,000 and $1.4 million. The 15 year tax hopes to bring in about $80 million annually. That comes out to about $1.3 billion annually, which falls short of the $1.9 billion price tag for the full plan.

"My main concern is getting it on the ballot. That is the number one priority for me as the superintendent," Greene said.

If the referendum passes, Greene is recommending a $500 million bond for the first five years of the project.

There was criticism from some council members, but one person who fully supports the plan is Councilman Jim Love.

"If we wait that’s a whole 'nother year, they don’t get the half-cent tax and that’s about over $80 million. So that’s an $80 million head start that we don’t get," Love said. "I think we should start sooner rather than later."

The measure could go before the City Council's finance and rules committee in a week. The week after, the full council could vote on it.