Nassau County voters could decide on property tax hike to fund teacher pay raises

Board will discuss resolution to place issue on countywide ballot

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – In the midst of a massive shortage of classroom teachers, the board of Nassau County District Schools is set to discuss a resolution to increase the county’s property tax rate to make teacher pay more competitive.

The resolution — which is on the agenda for Thursday night’s board meeting — would ask voters in the Nov. 8 election to increase the county’s millage rate by one mill, which is equivalent to a $1 increase for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

A similar resolution was recently approved in Duval County. The Duval County School Board, and later, the Jacksonville City Council, greenlit the measure to be placed on the August ballot.

“The education funds available through traditional means, such as the state funding formula and the required local millage option, do not give the Board the resources to continue improving and providing the excellence in education that students deserve,” the resolution states. “The national teacher shortage and an alarming increase in the number of resignations and retirements have created a continuous increase in vacancy rates in Nassau County schools, and national exit interviews indicate that lower pay or higher wages elsewhere is one of the primary reasons for departures from the classroom.”

The resolution also says Nassau County ranks 50th among Florida’s 67 school districts in average teacher salary and that “a significant increase in teacher compensation” is crucial.

Notably, the resolution also cites how recent “categorical funding” to raise the state’s average minimum salary for starting teachers has resulted in a pay disparity between new and veteran educators.

State law has also chipped away at local millage rates. Since 2008, Nassau County’s property tax rate went from 5.64 to 4.47.

“So, a 1 mill increase in the rate, if approved by voters, will still be less than the 2008 level, which funds operational expenses and helps keep up with growth for all Nassau County Schools,” the resolution said.

Aside from teacher pay raises, the revenue collected from this property tax increase would supplement the limited funds directed toward fine arts and athletic programs, as well as “enhanced safety and security for students and staff.”

At least 20 other Florida school districts have recently proposed and passed similar millage rate increases, which the resolution says creates a competitive disadvantage for Nassau County.

Should the question be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot, the language will display as follows:

NASSAU COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT AD VALOREM MILLAGE ELECTION | Shall the Nassau County School District levy an ad valorem operating millage of 1 mill annually to attract and retain high-quality teachers and staff through additional compensation, enhance fine arts and athletic programs, and provide enhanced safety and security for students and staff, in order to continue and sustain improvements in the quality of Nassau County’s school system.

_____ YES, for additional millage

______ NO, against additional millage

Laguange from Nassau County School Board Resolution #1355

The Nassau County School board is scheduled to meet Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.