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Local tax referendums on the ballot throughout Florida

Some of Duval County's oldest public schools are in sore need of repairs and maintenance.
Some of Duval County's oldest public schools are in sore need of repairs and maintenance.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Voters in at least two dozen Florida counties are being asked to increase taxes on themselves or provide tax breaks for businesses creating jobs.

The success of local tax referendums is often tied to how much control citizens have over the use of the funds.

There are more than 25 tax referendums in the hands of local voters around the state. In nine counties, school boards are seeking to raise money through penny or half-penny sales taxes, or property tax increases.

That includes Clay and Duval counties, which have half-penny sales tax measures on the ballot.

Andrea Messina is the Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association.

“There certainly are demands from their communities to upgrade or provide more services, or facilities depending on what it is that people are going for," said Andrea Messina, executive director for the Florida School Boards Association. “And the districts do not have the funding currently to provide what the community is asking for.”

The number of school referendums is actually down from two years ago when 21 were on the ballot. All of them passed.

“So clearly the communities wanted to support their local school districts,” Messina said.

Another eight counties want to grant tax breaks for new or expanding businesses.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses isn’t taking a position on them but said the employment landscape is changing drastically.

“We’re seeing growth in manufacturing, in services, in construction," Bill Here, executive director of NFIB Florida, said. “And if people want to get on with their lives they need to look at the opportunities that there are in those industries.”

Four counties are seeking additional funding to pay for public safety or social needs.

Manatee is asking voters to back a $50 million bond to protect water resources and the environment, Holmes wants to fund a hospital and Walton has a tourist development tax on the ballot.

And two counties are asking voters to approve a half mill increase in property taxes for children’s services.

Some pollsters said surveys before and during the pandemic show at most a one-percent reduction in support for some taxes, but they noted that they could be proven wrong come Tuesday.