Mayor: Hold off on half-cent school tax referendum until 2020

Curry says too many questions need to be answered for special election

File photo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry is standing behind his stance on the much-discussed half-cent sales tax referendum to fund repairs for Duval County's crumbling schools. 

The School Board is pushing to get City Council to approve putting the referendum on the ballot in November for a special election.

Curry said that's too soon.

"I don't believe that there should be a special election in November of 2019,” he said, repeating his previous assertion. “I'm open to 2020. I have kids in public schools. I know our schools need work. The question is when and what. ... I think they ought to make the case for November 2020 and then some questions need to be answered. What's the cash flow analysis? What's the debt service analysis? What's the plan of priorities?"

The tax would fund repairs, reconstruction and consolidation of aging public schools in Duval County. The 15-year tax hopes to bring in about $80 million annually. That comes out to about $1.3 billion, which falls short of the $1.9 billion price tag for the full Master Facilities Plan. 

Dozens who spoke to the City Council during public comment at a recent meeting said they want voters to have the chance to make a decision on the half-cent sales tax.

The school district said it will pay for a special election, which would cost between $700,000 and $1.4 million. 

But Curry said there's no need to rush it onto a ballot.

"I think people ought to have a say in dollars going to their schools, but some questions need to be answered,” Curry said.

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. 

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

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.