School board to decide half-cent resolution at next meeting

Money would address maintenance, growth issues facing county

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CLAY COUNTY – The school board soon will decide whether to request a half-cent sales tax for the November general election ballot.

The school board briefly discussed this amended resolution for the tax during their school board workshop last week and it will formally vote on the resolution on Thursday. If approved, voters will decide this November whether or not they approve of this tax. If it’s approved by the school board, they’ll have to begin educating the public as soon as possible and they’ll have to find creative ways to do so in light of COVID-19.

“When you look at elections, you’re looking at having to educate the public,” school board attorney Bruce Bickner said. “The process [amending a resolution] you’re talking about is absolutely legal but if you choose to not go forward, I need to know sooner than later because I have to undo it the same way we did it.”

The amended resolution includes a few key changes: the addition of transportation to the tax’s use, a citizens advisory committee to monitor expenditures, and the inclusion of proportionate revenue share with Clay County charter schools.

“Levy of one-half cent sales surtax for educational facilities, technology, transportation and security,” the amended resolution reads. “Shall a one-half cent sales surtax be levied in Clay County by the school board for thirty years, beginning January 1, 2021, to finance construction, reconstruction, renovation, and remodeling of facilities, safety, security, technology upgrades, vehicles, land acquisition and improvement.

“A list of projects has been published. A citizens advisory committee will monitor expenditures. Revenues collected must be shared with eligible charter schools based on their proportionate share of total school district enrollment.”

This sales tax would help cover the cost of $318 million in facility needs as well as $300 million needed for new growth, which includes plans for seven new schools. The proposed revenue stream from the tax, if approved, would bring in $403,929,990 during the next 30 years.

“Proposed revenue stream is less than the $618,293,650 needed,” a district Powerpoint about the tax reads. “Decades of deferred maintenance has compounded the need.”

Bickner said that the average family would be looking at paying 75 cents a week if the tax is approved. He said that’s what a half-cent sales tax on $150 of taxable items looks like with this new tax in place.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Fleming Island High Teacher In-Service Training Facility.

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