Legal action filed after Clay County school tax resolution denied

Commissioners voted unanimously against half-cent sales tax resolution

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County School Board on Friday filed legal action against the County Commission after commissioners voted unanimously against a proposed half-cent sales tax resolution.

Earlier this month, commissioners rejected setting a date for a special election this year and instead sent it back to the school board with revisions to wait until 2020. 

The school board says the issue can't wait and it needs the money now to fix crumbling Clay County public schools and that the commissioners overstepped their powers by refusing to set a special election date prior to Dec. 31, 2019.

A judge will now decide.

COURT DOCUMENT: Legal action filed against Clay County Board of Commissioners

Janice Kerekes, the school board's vice chairwoman, previously told News4Jax the board will do whatever it can to get a special election on the half-cent sales tax in 2019, including potentially suing the county commission.

“I can’t understand somebody voting against public education. Florida statute clearly states that the board shall place this on the ballot, which means you must. You will," Kerekes said. "I don’t know what they are thinking. It’s sad, though, because at the end of the day, we need to stop playing politics and put our children first because they are the ones that will suffer."

The tax would help pay for improvements to Clay County public schools.

Gavin Rollins, a Clay County commissioner who is also a teacher, spoke to News4Jax before the legal action was filed.

“If they are so desperate for money -- suing costs money. Our county attorney is going to defend it without any cost of the county, but the school board typically hires outside counsel, which is additional taxpayer expense,” Rollins said.

Rollins said as a teacher, he knows the schools need attention. He said his goal is to get more Clay County voters to decide what happens and the only way to do that is to wait until the 2020 election.

“It gives more opportunity for the school board to be more specific on what they’re asking, for them to educate the public. I’m an educator, a teacher, and I believe in educating the public, and that’s all we need to do before they vote in November 2020,” Rollins said.

The school board said it needs about $350 million for upgrades and an additional $300 million to build new schools. The tax would span 30 years, bringing in about $13.5 million annually.

“I think that’s fair. People are not going to go to a school board meeting or a City Council meeting to even be able to get their vote out and say yes or no," said Dee Watson, a Clay County parent. "It’s better just be on the ballot so you can read it and say yes or no."

Delaura Fulford, who is also a Clay County parent, said she believes a special election is a better option.

“There’s a dire need in Clay County for assistance," Fulford said. "Wilkerson Elementary would be one.”

News4Jax requested comment from to Addison Davis, the school superintendent. He said he will not be commenting at this time. He’s waiting to hear from the school board on the next step.

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