A Pinellas school tax vote in January?
A citizens group is urging the Pinellas School Board to use the Jan. 29 ballot to ask voters to renew a four-year-old special property tax on education. Eighty percent of the tax proceeds are used to enhance salaries for Pinellas' 8,000 teachers, who get an average salary of about $46,000. The other 20 percent goes to modernize classroom technology and beef up art, music and reading programs.
Beth Rawlins, a political consultant and chairman of Citizens for Pinellas Schools, formally asked superintendent Clayton Wilcox today to put the topic on the board's agenda in October. She also called for the referendum to be held in January.
Four years ago, the tax initially passed during the November general election. In interviews today, Rawlins and Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas teachers union, said they favored January over November because the January ballot looks like it could be cleaner. They were referring to a judge's decision this week to throw out a proposed amendment establishing a "super exemption" for homeowners. Another factor, Moore said, is that January will be the last time the state uses touch screen voting machines, which strongly encourage voters to consider the whole ballot, unlike other voting systems.