GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County School Board is one step closer to a half-cent sales tax after giving Superintendent Addison Davis direction during the June 17 school board agenda review workshop.
Agenda review workshops serve as a way for the school board in advance to prepare for an upcoming agenda. While official motions can’t be made at these workshops, direction was given to move them closer to a desired half-cent sales tax increase.
“We the board can give direction to [Davis] to get [the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability] started so that if we approve this, they’re doing to be ready to go the very next day,” school board member Janice Kerekes said.
OPAGGA is an arm of the Florida Legislature Office and it will be used to help the school board find a Certified Public Accountant to guide them toward a possible half-cent sales tax to cover the cost of nearly $300 million needed for facility improvements at 41 schools.
The board started mulling over the option of a half-cent sales tax at its June 6 meeting to cover the costs of the improvements. Unable to cover these costs with a bond, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Michael Kemp told the board the only option to fund the improvements was through a sales tax.
The proposed sales tax can’t be used for salaries. It can only be used on capital improvements like infrastructure needs, and it would be line-itemed for everyone to see.
During the meeting, all five board members were on board but how they were to proceed in doing it is where the board was in disagreement. House Bill 5 goes into effect next January and it won’t allow changes to sales tax during a special election. Instead, referendums would need to be on a general election ballot every two years.
Kerekes pushed to get the sales tax referendum on a special election this year. Board member Ashley Gilhousen was concerned with that timeline during the last regular meeting and the workshop.
“The feedback we got from the public is it is too much, too fast,” Gilhousen said. “I worry we’re rushing into this. What they’re going to accuse us of is what they accused us of last time: a lack of transparency.”
School board member Mary Bolla expressed similar concern. Despite their concerns, they’re still on board with a half-cent sales tax; they’re just unsure if a special election is the way to proceed.
The board is set to vote on this half-cent sales tax at the upcoming June 27 regular meeting. Kerekes anticipates the board will pass the vote, so Davis was told to contact OPAGGA to begin the process.
“If we wait to do this until after the vote, that will add another two weeks to our timeline while they search for one,” Kerekes said. “If we direct [Davis to direct OPAGGA] now, on Day 1, when we approve it, they can start the process right then and there.”
The vote is June 27 at the Teacher Inservice Center at Fleming Island High.