HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County School Board members voted to include a millage tax increase on the August ballot.
Superintendent Addison Davis proposed the special property tax at Tuesday night's meeting.
“We’re just trying to find a way to compete,” said Davis.
The board voted 4 to 3 and approved the tax increase. The referendum will be placed on the primary ballot in August.
"I don’t want our families to feel guilty because they’re choosing to pay their rent and mortgages and put food on the table versus supporting this referendum," said Stacy Hahn, a Hillsborough County School Board Member.
People who spoke at the meeting argued now is not the time to ask taxpayers for more money.
"In this time of increased inflation and prices going up, it is irresponsible to ask the taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money," said one homeowner who is against the tax.
Hillsborough County Schools has been dealing with financial issues for a while.
“In the last two years we’ve done a really good job of trying to right the ship, get us back in a place financially where we are identified as fiscally responsible and reliable,” said Davis.
In that process, the district cut contracts, removed consultants and cut positions to save money.
“But now it’s trying to find — to go over and beyond to really show our employees that they’re valued,” said Davis.
Leaders say the national teacher shortage and increase in the number of resignations and retirements have created a significant vacancy rate in the district.
Exit interviews indicate that low pay and high wages elsewhere were the primary reasons for leaving.
“We know that throughout the state of Florida, 21 school districts currently have an increased millage. The bulk of the school districts are using that to be able to recruit the best and the brightest every single day,” said Davis.
“We know that a number of our community members may not have students within our school district but the economic impact that we talk about that would have on the students has given them a robust educational experience is priceless,” said Davis.
He claims about 75% of that money would go toward recruiting and retaining teachers. The remaining 25% would go toward workforce development and supporting art, music, and physical education classes.
“Being able to identify how we expand music and band and chorus and orchestra within our middle schools and in the same token give our students the necessary equipment,” said Davis.
So here’s what that would mean for Hillsborough County residents:
- For a home value of $50,000, the yearly cost would be $25
- For a home value of $100,000, the yearly cost would be $75
- For a home value of $150,000, the yearly cost would be $125
- For a home value of $200,000, the yearly cost would be $175
- For a home value of $250,000, the yearly cost would be $225
- For a home value of $300,000, the yearly cost would be $275
The school district also pointed out that the district was facing a $150 million budget deficit two years ago, but by July of 2022, the district is projected to have completely overcome the deficit.
“Over the last two years, me and my team have worked tremendously hard to be able to put us in compliance with the department of education. Openly without this opportunity, we just won’t be able to complete with the 21 counties in the state of Florida that have gone over and beyond financially to properly build salaried schedules that attract new talent and keep great talent,” said Davis.
The referendum will be placed on the August ballot. If voters approve it, the millage would begin July 2023 and last four years.