BCC responds: Fate of school board’s demand for special election now in hands of judge

By Wesley LeBlanc Staff Writer
Posted 8/7/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Board of County Commissioners filed its response to an order to show cause filed by the school board. Now it’s up to a judge to figure out whether the school board can …

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BCC responds: Fate of school board’s demand for special election now in hands of judge

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Board of County Commissioners filed its response to an order to show cause filed by the school board. Now it’s up to a judge to figure out whether the school board can force the BCC to set a special election for a half-cent sales tax to raise more than $300 million for school maintenance projects.

After being ordered by the court to “show cause” for why it didn’t grant the school board’s request for a special election, County Attorney Courtney Grimm filed a 50-page response, saying the commission acted within its rights.

At the core of the lawsuit is Florida Statute 212.055(6)(b).

“As a result, the duties granted to the BCC allow the BCC when placing the referendum on the ballot, to determine the election on which to place the proposition,” Grimm said.

Grimm said that the governing body of a given county is responsible to place a sales surtax on the ballot. She also said the school board contended with no statutory or legal support that the BCC is required to place the sales tax referendum on a ballot and place it on the ballot for a special election with a date set by the school board.

“The BCC, however, determined that the application of the rules of statutory construction do not allow for the insertion of additional requirement into the statute which the School Board seeks to impose and that the words of the statute must be given their plain meaning,” Grimm said.

Grimm called the use of the word “required” by the school board “perplexing.”

Grimm said contrary to the school board’s claim, the BCC did not refuse to create a special election, but instead exercised its lawful discretion by requesting that the school board revise their request to ask that the referendum be placed on the November 2020 general election.

Recently-signed House Bill 5 will eliminate the use of special elections to raise taxes. That law will go into effect on Jan. 1, so the school board is trying to get ahead of that deadline by getting the referendum in front of voters in less than five months.

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