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South Florida Counties Seek to Maintain Higher School Taxes


Voters in South Florida approved higher property taxes to fund an effort to boost safety in public schools back in 2018. Under state law, the money only lasts for four years unless voters approve the tax again.


Broward County has scheduled a referendum in the August primary. Palm Beach voters will be asked in the November general election to continue the tax. Miami-Dade passed a similar referendum in 2018 but has not announced details on asking for an extension.


Parkland Tragedy


On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. It was the deadliest high school shooting in United States history.


In response, many districts asked for higher taxes to put more police officers, security guards and mental health counselors in schools. Broward County voters agreed to levy $50 on every $100,000 worth of assessed property. Palm Beach County’s tax was $100 per $100,000 of assessed property.


On the Ballot


Broward County wants to increase the tax hike to $100 per $100,000. Officials say a major reason a higher tax is needed is because of a law passed by the Legislature in 2019 that requires school districts to share referendum dollars with charter schools. About 20% of Broward students attend charter schools and Broward would have to share $23 million if it asked voters for the same tax as last time.


Palm Beach is not affected by the law. Charter schools sued the school district to receive a share of its 2018 referendum dollars and won.


“We are looking to renew the referendum. We aren’t seeking an increase,” Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Charter schools represent 11% of our enrollment and we’ve already been forced to start sharing that money. We’ve been forced to work them into our budget.”