There are some major changes for the Clay County school district.
First, voters passed a half-cent sales tax that will fund school maintenance. There has also been a major shift on the Clay County School Board. Longtime School Board member Carol Studdard, who has been a board member for almost three decades, lost to Beth Clark.
Let’s start with the half-cent sales tax hike that will fund maintenance needs throughout the district. The district has been struggling to overhaul dozens of gaining HVAC units, along with lowering the number of portable classrooms in the district. Clay has so many that the county is on par with Miami for the number of portables. There is also a need because the county population is booming and a lot of new schools need to be built.
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The other headline of note in Clay County is Studdard losing her re-election bid for the first time. Studdard has been on the board for 28 years and has almost seemed unbeatable. Studdard has been at the center of a lot of public fights between board members and with past superintendents but has always remained strong.
She was defeated by Clark, a longtime real estate agent who has been volunteered with the district for years.
“I understand she’s never gone to a general. It’s always been a primary when she’s had a competitor," Clark said of Studdard. "Carol worked hard for 28 years. I believe in term limits.”
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Clark says she wants transparency on the board and points out that the new tax hike must go to school maintenance -- it will not go to salaries.
“It has to go for maintenance. It can not go for teachers' salaries," Clark said. "The one good thing is if we truly have a committee that oversees.”
She says she wants the right committee to be set up so the money is spent the best way.
A couple of years ago, the district passed a four-year property tax hike to fund school security. District officials tell News4Jax wanted this new tax hike to be a sales tax so it wasn’t specifically funded only by property owners in Clay County.