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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Put more money into school maintenance and construction, Ag Commissioner Putnam says



Florida school districts have long had millions of dollars worth of unmet maintenance and construction needs. Polk officials, for instance, recently revealed a $238 million shortfall over the next five years.

Yet money from the state has shrunk. Facing their own school maintenance woes, Miami-Dade voters responded last year by approving a $1.1 billion bond sale.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the time has come to increase the state's investment. He doesn't call for a tax rate increase, as some school districts have requested.

But in a piece for the Tampa Bay Times, Putnam throws his support behind a bill (SB 1076 / HB 899) that would direct some tax revenue from business electricity bills toward schools. He estimates that $225 million a year -- a portion of what districts say they need -- could come from the move.

"In order to prepare Florida's students to compete in this increasingly global economy, investing in our next generation must be a top priority. We must provide them with a high-quality education, and that includes the resources they need to succeed in school," Putnam writes. "We must dedicate a long-term, sustainable source of funding to support Florida's schools."

Both bills remain in committee. A bill to allow districts to increase their capital outlay tax rates has yet to be heard.

[Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 2:18pm]


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