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Florida Schools Take Tax Hikes to Voters

by Tony Garcia, Ft. Lauderdale, August 2018

 

Schools boards in three major Florida counties want to increase property taxes to pay for teacher raises and campus security guards.

 

A new law passed after the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida requires a police officer or an armed security guard at every school in the state.

 

These referendums require a simple majority to pass – 50% plus one vote.

 

Miami-Dade

 

The Miami-Dade School Board voted to put a referendum on the November 6 ballot. The measure seeks to raise $242 million annually in additional school property taxes. It’s an increase of $0.75 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

 

The added property taxes would allow the district to give some teachers up to a 20% raise. The remaining funds would cover the costs of hiring armed security personnel.

 

The school board also voted to set up a citizen oversight committee, which would ensure the money raised through the referendum is spent correctly.

 

Palm Beach

 

Palm Beach school leaders will ask voters in their county to raise property taxes on November 6. If approved, it will quadruple a special tax that property owners pay in addition to regular school property taxes.

 

The special tax currently levies $25 per $100,000 of taxable property value. The November referendum would raise the rate $1 per $1,000 of taxable value.

 

The property tax hike would raise the amount collected countywide from roughly $50 million this year to an estimated $200 million next year. Of that amount, the school district proposes that $100 million would be spent raising teachers’ salaries. Another $50 million would be spent on school security and mental health services. And the remaining $50 million would pay for more than 650 new teaching positions.

 

Broward

 

Broward County’s property tax hike for schools is slated for the August 28 elections. The school district is requesting an additional 50 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property value. If approved, it would raise $93 million annually for four years.

 

Some of the money would be used for one-time teacher bonuses. District officials say they can’t provide annual raises because the tax would expire in four years, and there’s no guarantee voters would renew it. School leaders say that without more revenue, it will be tough to increase teacher pay this year. Concerns about pay have been attributed to teachers leaving the profession and moving to other states.

 

The tax hike would ensure that every school in Broward County has at least one police officer on duty, with some larger schools getting more officers. Charter schools with at least 900 students would also be eligible for some money to hire police.