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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New tax for Pasco schools uncertain



Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino has repeatedly told her School Board that it needs to impose a new 0.25 mill property tax in order to fill a nearly $6 million hole in the district budget. Florida lawmakers built the tax into the state education budget, she said, and without it the board will simply have to cut more spending.

The board has yet to be sold.

Board members have delayed a decision on the tax for weeks. They plan to vote on the issue Tuesday only because the Pasco supervisor of elections has said he needs to know by month's end whether to put the tax for the following year on the November ballot. (The board can impose the tax just once by a supermajority, and then it must go before voters.)

With action just days off, board members continue to hem and haw. They say they don't want to raise taxes while families are struggling economically. Yet they don't want to see the district cut deeper, which could result in layoffs for the county's biggest employer.

Only Kathryn Starkey, who's seeking a state House seat, has repeatedly said she won't vote for the tax (though she frequently adds maybes to her comments). Without her support, the tax would require the backing of all four other board members. And no one is committing.

Members Joanne Hurley and Allen Altman told the Gradebook they're seeking more budget details before making up their minds. Frank Parker said "the state has forced our hand on that," but wouldn't say whether that would result in his yea vote. Cathi Martin did not return calls.

So we wait. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Any advice for the members on the tax?

[Last modified: Thursday, July 15, 2010 4:41pm]


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