Voters to decide fate of half-cent sales tax to help schools

School Board: Money needed to make repairs, build new schools

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CLAY COUNTY – Voters will decide whether it wants a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for school maintenance and other projects after the school board approved the adding it to the November ballot.

The vote wasn’t unanimous with Janice Kerekes voting against it. She disagreed with the stipulation that charter schools must be included in the resolution. She said that because their original resolution that didn’t include charter schools was passed before the law change that states charter schools must be included, the board’s resolution is grandfathered in.

“I just want to say that I disagree with this whole process,” Kerekes said at the June 4 meeting. “I really feel that our resolution should have been grandfathered in. It was written under existing language that, at the time, we took action as a board, sent to county commissioners, they took action as a board...and the only thing that needed to be changed was the date...and we did that.”

School board attorney Bruce Bickner said the grandfather argument fails because the new law is ambiguous in regards to what resolutions are included. The law changed the proceedings of the half-cent sales tax that has been in discussion for over a year.

The history of the school board’s half-cent sales tax is quite extensive. It was a hot topic of discussion last year when the school board tried to push the resolution onto a special election ballot, only for it to be denied by the Board of County Commissioners. The two bodies went to court over that decision and the school board lost. The board then made adjustments to the resolution at the BCC’s guidance.

This included pushing the resolution to a general election ballot in November. The resolution was approved by the school board and then the BCC following those changes. State law then changed the way a half-cent sales tax like this one worked and made it so that any school-related sales tax on a ballot after July 1 must include stipulations that direct proportionate funds to charter schools as well as public schools.

“I understand [Kerekes’] feelings about it but it applies to all elections that occur after July 1, 2020,” Bickner said. “I don’t see a way that we’re grandfathered in with a resolution we passed in October. The election will occur after July 2020 and I think that’s the end of that story.”

Because this stipulation was not in the original resolution passed last October by the school board, the board had to make amendments to the resolution to include the district’s charter schools. Those amendments were made and that’s what the board approved with a 4-1 vote. It’s now up to voters.

The money is needed to make more than $300 million in repairs to existing buildings, as well as another $300 million to pay for new schools.

In other business, superintendent David Broskie said the longer the district waits to hold its graduation for seniors, the better the chances of the graduation feeling normal.

“We’re going to have to adhere to whatever guidelines are present,” Broskie said. “I’ve seen a variety of plans out there. The longer we wait, the better our chances of having what people really want to happen. I know people are anxious to know more but...right now...it’s hard to say what it will look like.”

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