‘We need your help’: Community group pleads for more teachers, urges Jacksonville residents to support property tax increase for raises

A local community group spoke out Friday in front of the Duval County School Board to encourage people to support raising property taxes for teacher raises.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local community group spoke out Friday in front of the Duval County School Board to encourage people to support raising property taxes for teacher raises.

The Jacksonville Leadership Coalition and concerned Clergy pleaded for Jacksonville residents to support the increase in the mill property tax, which is an issue on the primary ballot in Duval County set to go before voters on August 23.

Pastor R.L Gundy also made a plea for former or retired teachers to come back to the classroom.

“It’s about the kids. It’s not about politics, and I want to ask you, those who are retired and certified, to come back to the school system, so we can have qualified teachers in our schools,” Gundy said. “And I want to ask that when you come back that the political system, the school system, administrators, the community and the parents will support you. This is my plea. We need your help.”

The nation is suffering from a national teacher shortage and Jacksonville is no stranger to the issue with over 500 vacancies. One of the main reasons for the shortage is teachers’ wages.

The proposed tax hike was submitted back in February. If approved, the school district anticipates the tax increase would raise at least $81 million annually -- costing homeowners an extra $100 per year for each $100,000 of the accessed value of their house.

VOTER’S GUIDE | Referendum: Property tax for schools

Some voters and homeowners have expressed support for the referendum. Others, however, said they are concerned about paying more taxes and believed that the tax increase is not the right route to get teachers the funding they deserve.

News4JAX received a vast amount of Insider comments that expressed being against passing the referendum. In the past, voters have seemed to support a tax increase, but that does not seem to be the case when it comes to the school system.

Samantha Williams does not support the tax hike.

“The property taxes are already up, so if you jack them up some more... it’s already though,” Williams said.

While raising property taxes will always be a concern for Tom Locke, he said he still approves the tax increase for teachers.

“I think our teachers need to be paid for what they do. I hate to pay anything more than I have to, but I’m for it,” Locke said.

RELATED: Community group calls for ‘yes’ vote to increase property tax, fund teacher raises, other needs | Proposed tax increase to benefit Duval County teachers & schools spotlights Tuesday discussion | EXPLAINER: Where will my extra tax money go if Duval approves referendum for teachers?

The Jacksonville Leadership Coalition stressed that it is the community’s responsibility to make sure Jacksonville children receive the best education possible when the State refuses or cannot find the funds to pay teachers more.

Charna Flannoy also supports the increase.

“Even though I don’t have school-age students or school-age children, I do understand the significance of having that additional cost added to better the school in the area,” Flennoy said.

The group of ministers demanded that Duval County schools need certified and qualified teachers in the classroom and the property tax increase would give teachers the competitive salary necessary for children’s future and the city.

Duval County School Board Superintendent Diana Greene said 75% of the $82 million generated by the proposed one mill property tax increase would go towards staff and teacher salary increases. The remaining 25% would be split between charter schools and arts and athletics in the district.

Despite the resistance certain voters are expressing, the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition assures voters the increase will pay off in the end -- not only for teachers, the community or voters but for the children as well.

Linda Harris retired from teaching 30 years ago, and she is responding to Gundy’s plea by going back into the classroom because teaching “is not a job. It’s an obligation.”

There is a need. It’s necessary that we come back to the classroom. There are a lot of certified teachers that chose to do other things in another way and that’s to help these children,” Harris said. “I would love to go to the schools where we are needed and there is a shortage.”

If passed, the tax increase is not permanent and would need to be voted on again in four years.

We want to hear from you: What do you think about paying higher property taxes for teacher raises? Click the link to fill out the form or comment below.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.