Clay County considering $1 property tax increase to help pay for SROs

If passed by school board, increase would be decided by voters in August

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - A $1 property tax rate increase in Clay County is an option being considered by county leaders to help pay for putting a school resource officer in every school. 

According to the Clay County School District, if approved by the school board, the property tax increase would be decided by voters in August.

More than 212,000 people live in Clay County, which continues to grow as more houses pop up. 

About 75 percent of the county's residents live in homes that they own and pay property taxes on. Those taxes could go up if the Clay County School Board votes next week to add a resolution to the August 28 primary election ballot calling for an increase of $1 to help pay for a school resource officer at every school in the county.

If approved, the $1 property tax increase would mean taxpayers in Clay County would pay about $100 more each year. 

Many residents told News4Jax on Wednesday that they would vote for "yes," saying they wouldn't mind paying a bit more if it means keeping children safe.

"I'd vote 'yes' because, I mean, it's $100 -- not very much," said Nicole Standeford, who lives in Clay County. "For some families, it might be. But I don't think so. You're paying property taxes anyway."

Bob Turner, who also lives in Clay County, said, "Down in Parkland, one of them may have been the next president. You never know. If it means $100 more to put an armed guard in there, then so be it."

The school district’s plan calls for having 44 school resource officers, which would cost $2.4 million. 

Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniel's plan calls for having 48 school resource officers at a cost of $4.5 million. The sheriff's plan includes deputies, relief deputies, sergeants, an investigator and a training officer. 

The Clay County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to approve a one-time allocation of $2.1 million -- $1.8 million in capital funding and $300,000 in operational funding -- related to funding school resource officers.

But more money is still needed with either plan, which is why the property tax increase is now on the table. 

According to SmartAsset, Clay’s County’s median annual property tax payment is lower than the payment in many other local counties:

  • Clay County's rate is about $1,470.
  • Duval County’s is more, at about $1,529.
  • Nassau County’s is about $1,594.
  • St. Johns County's is much higher, at nearly $2,694.

On Wednesday, News4Jax contacted board members to get their comments, but has only heard back from board member Betsy Condon, who said, "I will hold my comments until after we vote."

The school board is expected to vote May 3 on adding the resolution to the August ballot.

If passed, it would bring in $11 million instead of $10 million with the current rate, but the money would not be available until 2019.

A new Florida law requires a school resource officer in every school by August, which is the start of the 2018-2019 school year. 

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