Clay County school leaders push for half-cent tax to upgrade schools

Voters will decide on ballot measure aimed at facilities, maintenance, security improvements

Clay County school leaders push for half-cent tax to upgrade schools
Clay County school leaders push for half-cent tax to upgrade schools

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Outdated buildings, inadequate science labs, a reliance on portable classrooms, leaking roofs, and faulty air conditioners are just some of the reasons cited by Clay County School District leaders as to why they want voters to support a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The district said it has identified $318,293,650 in repairs and maintenance for the district’s facilities, the oldest of which, Orange Park Elementary, is 91 years old. The average age of the CCSD facilities is 38 years old and a quarter of the schools are nearing 50 years of age, according to the district’s website.

Another $300 million is needed to support expected growth, including the construction of at least five new schools in the next decade, according to district officials.

RELATED: District says tax money would help get rid of portables & build new schools

CCSD is also utilizing more than 900 portable classrooms, which the district said are not efficient, secure or sightly.

This aerial photo shows some of the more than 900 portable classrooms in use in the Clay County School District. (Clay County School District)

“Those were always just supposed to be a temporary strategy,” Bryce Ellis, the district’s Assistant superintendent of operations, said. “Some of these [portable classrooms] are from the 60s and they’ve reached the end of their life cycle.”

This photo was provided by the Clay County School District as part of a presentation meant to show the need for facility improvements. (Clay County School District)

If passed, the county would levy a half-cent sales tax, bringing the county’s total sales tax to 7.5 cents. The tax is predicted to collect $13,464,333 each year and $403,929,990 over the course of the tax’s 30-year lifespan.

Opponents to the tax measure told News4Jax the 30-year timeframe is far too long of a commitment for such a tax. Others said the school district’s poor management of the money already allocated to safety, security, building upgrades and maintenance is what led to the buildings’ current dilapidated state.

How Much money is planned for each school

The map below plots all the schools in the Clay County School Districts with planned expenditures. It also includes the average age of the buildings on each campus.

The Clay County School District published the individual school plans on its website.

What it looks like on the ballot

SHALL A ONE-HALF CENT SALES SURTAX BE LEVIED IN CLAY COUNTY BY THE SCHOOL BOARD FOR THIRTY YEARS, BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2021, TO FINANCE DISTRICT SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION, RECONSTRUCTION, RENOVATION, AND REMODELING OF FACILITIES; SAFETY, SECURITY, TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES; LAND ACQUISITION AND IMPROVEMENT; AND ALLOWABLE STATUTORY USES FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS. A CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMITTEE WILL MONITOR EXPENDITURES. REVENUES COLLECTED MUST BE SHARED WITH ELIGIBLE CHARTER SCHOOLS BASED ON THEIR PROPORTIONATE SHARE OF TOTAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ENROLLMENT.

Instructions to Voters:

______ FOR THE ½% (0.5 cents) TAX

______ AGAINST THE ½% (0.5 cents) TAX

Clay County, Florida

As of Tuesday morning, 72,695 Clay County voters had already cast their ballots, representing more than 44% of those registered to vote.

Ellis said if the measure doesn’t pass, the district will have to continue using the portable classrooms and the board will consider mass redistricting of Clay County schools.


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