Pinellas Co. voters determine fate of school's arts programs

School district property tax funding up for vote
Posted at 5:39 PM, Oct 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-24 18:07:02-04

Voters in Pinellas County will decide whether to continue funding arts, reading and music programs around public schools this election.

The Arts Referendum brings in more than $30 million through a property tax approved in 2004.

Residents vote on the program every four years.

This year, the average homeowner would pay some $65 a year in property taxes for the program.

“If I didn't have theater,” said Alexandra Stimens, a junior and president of Dixie Hollins High school drama club, “I wouldn't really look forward to anything when I wake up in the morning.”

The tax also helps fund teacher’s salaries so the county can provide more competitive salaries.

According to Citizens for Pinellas Schools, Florida ranks 43rd in the nation for spending per student, averaging more than $2,000 below the national average.

“Arts in the schools couldn't really do what we do without the referendum,” said Chris Clark, who teaches theater at Dixie Hollins.

If voters opt to discontinue the tax, schools around the district may not be able to make up for the loss in revenue.

"Everybody that works in this field is concerned about it,” said Clark.