What to know about Duval County’s property tax hike referendum to increase pay for teachers

A referendum for Duval County Public Schools is on today's ballot. If the voters approve the increase, it would cost homeowners an extra $100 each year for each $100,000 of the assessed value of their house. So, if a home is valued at $300,000, the homeowner will pay $275 a year or roughly $23 a month.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Among the questions on the primary ballot on Tuesday, Duval County voters are being asked whether they’re willing to pay higher property taxes so that Jacksonville teachers can earn a better salary.

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The district says this is badly needed. It says over the last six years, teacher vacancies have climbed 155%. School leaders say they not only need to bring in new teachers but also keep experienced teachers on the job.

Also, according to the district, experienced teachers make roughly the same or slightly higher than first-year teachers. As a result, teachers are moving into different jobs or retiring early, and it’s having an impact on students. Here’s what one former teacher told the district:

“You know the impact you’re making because they tell you. The kids are very honest. They know everything I did at the school. They were aware of how much I did. Them telling you they love you, it’s great...but it also doesn’t pay my bills,” she said.

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The average teacher salary is $47,458. How much more they could make is still up in the air. Contracts would be reworked, but we could see some teachers get an additional $5,000 per year.

Here’s how the proposed rate hike breaks down. It will increase the school district’s portion of your property tax rate by one mill -- that’s one dollar for every $1,000 of assessed value on your home.

An example: Let’s say your home is appraised at $300,000. After your homestead exemption, you could pay an additional $275 per year or roughly $23 a month.

Where will the new money go?

  • 65% of it will go to teachers’ pay
  • 12.5% will go to the arts and athletic programs
  • 12.5% will go to charter schools
  • 10% will go to school staff

If a tax increase for schools sounds familiar, a half-cent sales tax was approved in 2020.

Duval County School Board Chairman Darryl Willie said the proposed tax rate increase is needed even though we had a recent sales tax increase for schools. Because money from the half-cent tax can only be used toward repairing aging schools.

“Two very different funds. It’s very different,” Willie said. “It can be used for capital for building improvements or for safety and security, which we need. And we’ve done a lot with that. This specific one mill is for salaries, and we are not allowed to mix those funds.”

He said teachers deserve the community to back this referendum.

“We’re going after one mill because our teachers deserve it,” Willie said. “At the end of the day, we need to make sure our teachers get the money.”

Not everyone thinks the property tax increase is a good idea, though.

City Councilman Rory Diamond, for instance, said “This is an absolutely insane time to raise taxes on Jacksonville’s homeowners.”

Darnell Smith with One Mill For Teachers said he understands that perspective.

“Quite frankly, I know it’s not easy for folks with a lot of the things that we’re certainly dealing with from an economy standpoint,” Smith said. “This is also an issue though that we have to take advantage of. We have to do something about it. And if we have the opportunity to address this and provide a solution for our teachers, certainly for our children.”

Notably, if this is approved, it would have to be renewed by voters every four years.

All registered Duval County voters can weigh in on the issue during the primary election, regardless of party affiliation.

About the Authors:

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

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.