JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jax Chamber will put its influence behind making sure a half-cent sales tax referendum to fix Jacksonville's aging schools passes in November.
The Chamber announced Thursday that its Board of Directors voted to support the Duval County Public Schools referendum to upgrade and replace aging school infrastructure.
After a contentious path, the Jacksonville City Council voted 18-1 in April to add the referendum to the November ballot and Mayor Lenny Curry signed the bill, ensuring voters will get the chance to decide whether to approve the half-cent sales tax.
Upset by the slow-moving process, and ultimately, the withdrawal of the bill last August, DCPS sued the city the following month about the failure to bring the measure to voters. The referendum was brought back to the table on Feb. 25. Supporters made their case for the measure, which passed in April.
The tax would be in effect for 15 years and could net $1.2 billion, a hefty chunk of the $1.9 billion DCPS said it needs to fund a facility improvement plan to update, maintain and, in some cases, build new schools.
“A high-quality public education system is essential to developing top talent for local companies and attracting investment to our community,” Jax Chamber said in a news release, adding that the Chamber will work with DCPS and other supporters of the referendum to help the measure pass in November.
The plan was largely supported by the community, according to one poll conducted by the University of North Florida. According to the June 2019 poll by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at UNF, 75% of Duval County registered voters supported increasing the sales tax by a half-cent to upgrade or replace aging schools.
“This is an important investment in our public school system and in our community,” Jax Chamber Chair Henry Brown said. “The referendum would pay for needed upgrades and comes at a time where the influx of construction jobs will be critical for our local economy.”