Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It’s official: Hillsborough voters will decide on half-cent tax for schools in November

The Hillsborough County Commission on Thursday agreed to ask voters, on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, if they are willing to pay a half-cent sales surtax to meet capital needs in the schools.

Although the school district item was included on the county commission's consent agenda, member Stacy White – himself a former School Board member – expressed concerns about what might happen if the measure doesn't pass.

School board member Cindy Stuart, who pushed for the November referendum at that board's meeting on Aug. 24, said she thinks the district should be prepared to try again in March, and more times after that if necessary.

White, on Thursday, pointed out that the March election is for municipal races only, and the school district would have to take other measures to make sure it puts the question to voters countywide.

"l'm not sure at this point in time where I stand on the March back-up date," White said. "But I do want to make sure the residents in unincorporated Hillsborough County are treated fairly."

He suggested that staffs from the two branches of government work together and consider recent legal decisions affecting special elections.

The district, in the meantime, released a large-type document labeled Referendum Details that included photographs of children and listed benefits such as "raising property values," "creating high quality jobs," and "better preparing our area for hurricanes."

But the district has not yet released a school-by-school, item-by-item list showing exactly how it will spend the $1.31 billion that it expects the tax will raise over 10 years.

Some hints about the expenditures can be found in the district's five-year capital improvement plan, a document it submits to the state every year even though there is never enough money available to complete the projects listed.

Officials also have not said who will serve on the seven-member oversight committee, beyond the fact that six of the private citizens will not be affiliated with the district. Information on both issues is expected shortly.

Times Staff writer Chris O'Donnell contributed to this report. 

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