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Manatee school leaders ask voters to renew referendum helping teacher wages and school programs

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 17:48:13-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Terri Rohde has taught in Manatee County for more than 30 years and says she was thrilled when voters passed a school referendum in 2018 using a one-mill tax on property to help teachers get a $5,000 pay increase.

"For a lot of us, it's the difference between working one job in the schools and having to work two jobs," said Rohde, an Electa Lee Middle School media specialist.

Now in a special election on Nov. 2, the referendum is on the ballot again to be renewed.

"If we lose the mill now, all of the teachers that I work with will be taking a very large pay cut," said Rohde.

Since the referendum was first approved by voters in 2018, close to $45 million a year has been generated that helps pay for teachers' wages, STEM programs, and gives an additional 30 minutes of class time for students each day.

"It's very personal for me that if we don’t get this referendum renewed, that our students are going to suffer," said Rohde.

Now a group called Forward Manatee is working to spread the word asking voters in Manatee County to approve the renewal of the one-mill tax on property to support public schools. They say a positive vote will continue the improvements seen over the last three years.

"There’s no way that we can replace $45 million of revenue without that tax, so it would be a significant detriment to our district without it," said Cynthia Saunders, Manatee Schools superintendent.

Leaders are asking the community to vote in the special election on Nov. 2 to renew the referendum.