Sunday, November 18, 2018
Florida News

New group signals grass roots support for Hillsborough schools sales tax

TAMPA — A group of Hillsborough County parents have taken the first step in mobilizing like-minded residents to support a referendum to pay for capital needs in the public schools.

Teachers union leader Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins and public schools advocate Melissa Erickson filed papers Tuesday to form a political action committee called Strengthen our Schools.

Baxter-Jenkins, chairwoman of the committee, is executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. Erickson, the vice chair, is co-founder of the Alliance for Public Schools, which works in several counties to support parent engagement and boost high school graduation rates.

RELATED: More Florida counties are voting to raise local taxes for schools. Is it a message to lawmakers?

Their new committee is the first public sign of grass roots support for the half-cent sales surtax, which will appear on the ballot Nov. 6.

The tax, expected to raise $131 million annually for 10 years, would go toward capital expenditures including air conditioning upgrades, roofs, technology and possibly security. By law the money cannot fund ongoing expenses such as salary, but must purchase items with life expectancies of at least five years.

Officers in Strengthen Our Schools represent communities in South Tampa, Valrico, Carrollwood and elsewhere. Some have years of experience in PTA leadership.

"We’re all coming together as parents and activists and people who care about schools," said Baxter-Jenkins, a mother of two in South Tampa. "It isn’t simply a union thing. My hope is that we have very broad-based community support."

She said she hopes that by next week, the group will have a website that can accept donations.

"Much of it is small, from parents and supporters," she said, "And hopefully from people who will have the ability to give more."

Baxter-Jenkins said it was too early to indicate whether the group will be able to afford mass mailings or media advertisements.

"TV and mail are pretty expensive in this big an area," she said. "It depends on what kind of money we can raise in a very short period of time."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Two audits seal the deal. Hillsborough will vote on sales taxes for schools, transportation.

While neither side will characterize the situation as a competition, the schools measure will exist on the same ballot with a 1-cent sales surtax to support the county’s transportation needs.

Ballot materials for early voting could be distributed in about two weeks, meaning supporters are racing the clock to get the word out before voting begins.

Since the School Board voted on Aug. 24 to pursue the referendum, most communication on the issue has come from the school district. Superintendent Jeff Eakins said he plans to appear at a series of town hall meetings to answer questions about the district finances.

But, by law, the district cannot campaign for the tax hike; it can simply present information.

Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected] Follow @marlene sokol

Comments
Florida State’s bowl streak still alive after comeback upset of Boston College

Florida State’s bowl streak still alive after comeback upset of Boston College

Deondre Francois found Tamorrion Terry for the 74-yard game winning touchdown pass. Now FSU must beat the Gators next week to make a bowl game.
Updated: 8 hours ago
Louis Domingue gets a workout in Lightning’s 6-5 overtime win

Louis Domingue gets a workout in Lightning’s 6-5 overtime win

PHILADELPHIA — The Lightning asked a lot of Louis Domingue on Saturday, allowing a season-high 45 shots.For most of the game against the Flyers, the goalie stood up to them, but Philadelphia applied pressure in the second half of the third peri...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning’s Adam Erne has first career three-point game against Flyers

Lightning’s Adam Erne has first career three-point game against Flyers

Adam Erne had a goal and two assists to cap a crazy week
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pinellas woman arrested after 3-month-old is exposed to cocaine and suffers brain damage

Pinellas woman arrested after 3-month-old is exposed to cocaine and suffers brain damage

Police said she waited 11 hours before seeking medical attention.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Temple scores 27 unanswered to beat USF 27-17

Temple scores 27 unanswered to beat USF 27-17

PHILADELPHIA — USF's spiral continues.Despite the Bulls' defense answering the call, the offense and special teams failed to respond as the Owls reeled off 27 unanswered points in the second half, storming back for a 27-17 win Saturday at Linco...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Andrew Gillum ends campaign for Florida governor

Andrew Gillum ends campaign for Florida governor

Democrat Andrew Gillum says he is ending his hard-fought race for Florida governor and has congratulated Republican Ron DeSantis.
Updated: 11 hours ago
'You need events like this': Times Festival of Reading draws thousands

'You need events like this': Times Festival of Reading draws thousands

The 26th annual festival highlighted dozens of authors, many of them with Florida connections.
Updated: 12 hours ago
Trump proposes new way for employers to skirt birth control mandate

Trump proposes new way for employers to skirt birth control mandate

The Trump administration is making it easier for employers to exclude birth control from health insurance benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Published: 11/17/18
Trump again suggests California mismanaged forests as he heads to fire-damaged state

Trump again suggests California mismanaged forests as he heads to fire-damaged state

Trump drew wide criticism for a tweet last week blaming the wildfires on "gross mismanagement" of California timberlands and threatening to hold back federal funding from the Democratic-led state.
Published: 11/17/18
Recount adds to Florida's reputation for bungling elections

Recount adds to Florida's reputation for bungling elections

To much of the world, vote-counting confusion is as authentically Florida as jam-packed theme parks, alligators on golf courses and the ubiquity of Pitbull (the Miami rapper, not the dog).
Published: 11/17/18