JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Educators and other community leaders gathered Tuesday evening for a discussion on the proposed tax increase for schools in Duval County.
Early voting got underway this week in Jacksonville. Duval County Public Schools wants residents to vote on a measure to increase the millage rate.
Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene shared the facts presented by the Duval County School Board.
“It is vitally important that you know the facts so that you can share with other individuals about this referendum,” she said.
Community leaders from 904ward, the League of Women Voters and Duval Teachers United all participated in an online forum.
Greene says she can encourage people to vote, but can’t tell people how to vote.
“We are not the only district going through this teacher shortage. This is a national teacher shortage,” Greene said. “And many districts have embarked on millage referendums to ensure that they can be competitive not only with their neighboring districts but also with the corporate world.”
The proposed one mill property tax increase would generate almost $82-million.
Greene says 75% of that would go to staff and teacher salary increases.
The rest would be split between charter schools, and arts and athletics in the district.
Pushback comes from at least one Jacksonville lawmaker. City Councilman Rory Diamond calls it a crazy idea.
“This is an absolutely insane time to raise taxes on Jacksonville’s homeowners,” he said. “There is sky-high inflation and we just doubled the gas tax. And the school board, frankly, doesn’t need the money right now. This is not the time to raise taxes on our families.”
Diamond is a Republican who represents the beaches. We asked him about the need to raise the millage and increase teacher pay.
“Absolutely disagree with their logic for why they’re trying to raise our taxes,” Diamond said. “Experienced teachers are not asking for more money at our charter schools or private schools. They get paid less than Duval County Public Schools teachers, but they’re happy over there. So the issue is not pay, it’s management. They need to fix their management problem, not ask for more money from our homeowners and our families.”
While Diamond is on the record opposing the tax increase, other groups are calling for a “yes” at the voting booth.
Greene made a comparison on teacher salaries. She says a teacher with 17-days experience earns the state’s new starting salary, which is $47,500.
Greene says a teacher with 17 years of experience earns just a thousand dollars more.