Supporters continue push for sales tax to improve Duval County schools

Public had chance to weigh-in on bill during City Council meeting Tuesday night

The Jacksonville City Council held a second reading Tuesday night, of the bill to put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot in November. The revenue is meant to repair and replace aging Duval County school facilities.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in Jacksonville got a chance to weigh-in Tuesday night during the second reading of a bill that would put a referendum for a half-cent sales tax in Duval County on the November ballot.

The funds raised from the surtax would be used to repair and replacing aging public schools. It would last for 15 years, and it could generate $1.2 billion.

According to the Duval County School Board’s master plan, it needs more than $1.9 billion for improvements.

“I hope that by the referendum now being on the agenda, this signals that we’re all ready to move forward and put it on the ballot,” said Cindy Pearson, a Jacksonville resident. “I hope that by putting it on the ballot, it also signals a new working relationship between the City Council and the School Board.”

If the measure makes it through City Council and onto the November ballot, it could go into effect starting in January 2021, if it’s passed.

“This is long overdue,” said Rick Robinson, a Jacksonville resident. “Too many schools have been neglected for far too long. Many of these schools are located on the Northside. These schools do not presently offer an optimum environment for learning.”

While some speakers support the repair and replace idea to update schools, there was criticism of the district being in the spot it’s in, where maintenance costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each month.

“You build schools and you let them run down?” said Richard Lombardi, a Jacksonville resident. “They didn’t even allocate the money to keep them running? Some kids have to go to school cold in the winter, hot in the summer?”

City Council is set for a third reading of the ordinance in two weeks, which is when there could be a vote. If City Council votes to put the measure on the ballot, lawsuits between the School Board and city would be dropped.

On a side note, News4Jax noticed hand sanitizing stations, for the first time, have been placed inside the entrances to Jacksonville City Hall amid concerns over the threat of the new coronavirus.

Florida’s latest case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in Broward County, the Florida Department of Health said Tuesday.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.