Tax hike required this year for vote next year?
Facing budget shortfalls in the millions, Florida school districts have the option again this year of increasing their local property tax rate by 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to fill some of the hole.
The Pasco County School Board will consider such a move this evening. Others, including Pinellas, already have imposed the hike. After this year, boards will need voter approval to keep the tax in place.
That caveat, put into law this spring by the Florida Legislature, has raised a critical question: If a board does not want to put the tax on its bill this year, as Martin didn't, can it even ask voters to consider imposing it in the future?
The implementing legislation states: "In order to be continued after the 2010-2011 fiscal year, millage levied pursuant to this paragraph must be approved by the voters of the district at the next general election ..." The key word in that sentence, the one that has some school district lawyers wondering, is "continued."
How can a district continue anything it hasn't started?
We've asked several lawyers and lawmakers for their take, and gotten mostly uncertainty in the responses. Rep. John Legg, chairman of the Pre-K-12 Policy Committee, tells us that the Florida Department of Education is giving this advice: "A school board does not have to levy the supermajority critical needs millage in either or both of the 2009-2010 or 2010-2011 fiscal years in order to put the question before the voters in the 2010 General Election."
Whether that's good enough to stave off a challenge, only time will tell.