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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Poll: Pinellas voters would support tax



Would Pinellas County voters renew a special property tax that primarily goes to enhance teacher salaries – even as taxpayers are clamoring for relief?

“The answer to that is overwhelmingly yes,” Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, said Tuesday.

A poll of likely Pinellas voters shows strong support for renewing the tax of 50 cents on every $1,000 of assessed value, according to Moore and Beth Rawlins, who heads a political action committee pushing for the tax.

Rawlins, a political consultant, called the results “exceedingly favorable” – with support coming in stronger than poll results indicated in 2004, when the tax was first approved. She said support is stronger than even the final result in November 2004, when the tax got 64 percent of the vote.

The two based their comments on preliminary raw results from Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, a San Francisco-based polling firm. A full report with exact percentages will be released later, they said.

The tax raised $36-million last fiscal year, which helped finance an average pay increase of 6.4 percent for Pinellas teachers. Overall, the tax has helped the district raise average teacher pay from about $40,000 a year in 2004 to about $46,000 in the 2006-07 school year. The union estimates that teachers, on average, receive about $100 every paycheck from referendum money.

This year’s pay increase, expected to be much smaller because of state budget woes, will be negotiated later this month.

About 20 percent of the proceeds from the tax goes to enhance reading, visual arts, music and technology programs. The remainder goes to teacher salaries.

The owner of a home valued at $200,000 for taxing purposes, with a $25,000 homestead exemption, pays $87.50 a year on the special tax. That’s on top of regular school taxes, which last year came to $1,349 for that home.

- Thomas C. Tobin
Education Reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:22am]


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