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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Change to school construction tax on hold

A move that could largely wipe out construction, maintenance and technology plans for some urban school districts was left out of an agreement on the state pre-K-12 education budget at the eleventh hour Friday -- which means the proposal now goes to House and Senate budget chairs for a decision.

The provision would shift some property-tax money normally designated for school districts' capital budgets into its day-to-day operating budgets, to help districts strapped for cash. But places like Miami-Dade and Broward could have trouble paying for school upkeep and borrowing money for any construction or technology projects under the change.

The proposed compromise was to let school districts raise more property taxes that could go to their capital budgets, passing that politically unpopular tax-hike decision to school board members. But the House wanted voters to approve that increase in a referendum -- after a super-majority, like two-thirds, of school board members agreed to it.

"That's something that we felt is reasonable, especially when it comes to these difficult times," said Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican and House education appropriations chief.

Senate education leaders wanted the decision to be left to a simple majority of board members, without a referendum, though they had apparently agreed to side with the House. At the last minute, they changed their minds after Sen. Rudy Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, said he worried the voting requirements would hurt districts' ability to borrow money.

Without agreement, the issue now goes to House and Senate budget leaders for a decision.

-- Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:22am]


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