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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should Florida lawmakers revive the "critical needs" tax?



As part of this year's education budget discussions, Florida lawmakers have proposed reinstituting the "critical needs" millage rate that school districts were able to levy three years ago.

Under the old version, districts could charge an added 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, and use the revenue to support operations. The catch was that, at first, school boards needed a supermajority to impose the tax. Later on, they had to win voter approval to continue the tax.

The tax went away. But now it's back up for consideration in the Senate appropriations bill (SB 1514). One key difference is that the districts would be able to use the money for capital projects only.

Pasco County school district officials have suggested that districts should be able to use the money for daily operations, just like the first time around. They've been lobbying their well connected legislative delegation seeking to amend the bill when it heads to the floor this week, or perhaps during conference committee meetings toward the end of session.

Facing a projected shortfall of $23 million in the coming fiscal year, Pasco leaders are calling this idea a "very high priority."

Pasco Sen. John Legg, who sits on the education appropriations subcommittee, sounded leery of allowing the tax to be used for salaries, suggesting it might be more appropriately put toward capital needs such as technology infrastructure. He said he had asked the district for more details about its definition of "criticial need" before making any decision on the idea. Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2013 1:55pm]


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