ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Later this year, voters in Pinellas County will decide whether to renew a referendum that puts extra property tax towards local schools.
On Tuesday, a citizen's committee that oversees the referendum went into Leila G. Davis Elementary School in Clearwater to see the tax dollars at work, including several high tech upgrades in classrooms.
Since 2004, the tax has raised $477 million to boost teacher salaries and funnel money into art, music and reading programs across Pinellas County.
Mitch Lee is on the Referendum Oversight Committee and says he was impressed to see how the money is being put to use in classrooms.
“The strings program that you see in the schools would not exist without referendum funding. The sound systems in high schools comes from referendum funding. Band uniforms are also referendum funded. It goes on and on in each of these areas. Without this tax, schools would have to look at major cuts to programs,” he said.
If Pinellas County voters say yes to renew the referendum this year, property owners will pay an extra 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on their homes. The referendum costs the average homeowner an extra $78 a year, according to district leaders.