JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Public Education Fund hosted an online seminar Monday morning in which Duval County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Diana Greene outlined how the district would benefit if voters pass a half-cent sales tax referendum in November.
The superintendent said the revenue generated by the tax would support the district’s key focus areas for improvement; decreasing the number of persistently low-performing schools, improving literacy, increasing instructional rigor, recruiting/retaining high-quality employees and improving school facilities.
Greene also pointed out that the average age of Duval County school facilities is 44 years, the oldest such figure in the state, with Miami-Dade County and Hillsborough County tying in second place at 33 years.
Since 2008, the district’s state funding has decreased by about $300 million, mirroring the district’s roughly $300 million increase in deferred maintenance projects in the same timeframe, according to Greene’s presentation.
Duval County doesn’t currently collect any impact fees or sales surtax to supplement state revenue, while other districts net millions of dollars each year from doing so. Greene said this creates a challenge to compete with other districts in the state.
Greene said the district would prioritize more than a billion dollars worth of backlogged maintenance projects, cutting overhead, building new schools where needed, abolishing the need for any portable classrooms and make significant safety and security upgrades.
The half-cent sales tax, Green said, would supplement state revenue such that the district’s $1.91 billion master facility plan would be funded over the next 15 years.
Two polls, from UNF and JPEF, found that 78.5% of respondents either somewhat support or strongly support a small tax increase to fund school facility improvements.
The sales tax referendum is on the Nov. 3 ballot.