Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando school officials to lay out sales tax referendum plans

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has long struggled with how it will pay for its growing maintenance needs and the huge cost of upgrading technology.

The numbers are bleak.

Over the next five years, the district forecasts it will need about $74 million for maintenance work. In the next 10, officials say, they will need about $62 million for technology.

A key component to funding these needs, they say, is renewing a half-cent sales tax.

On Tuesday, School Board members are expected to take a major step toward putting the 10-year sales tax referendum on the November election ballot.

"It's significant for us," said Hernando superintendent Lori Romano.

Romano said the sales tax would bring in between $6.5 million and $8 million per year.

During an afternoon workshop, board members will discuss a resolution that calls for a 10-year sales tax to fund "fixed capital improvements to school facilities and to provide for technology implementation within the School District."

The resolution is scheduled to be voted on at Tuesday night's School Board meeting. It would then be sent to the Hernando County Commission, which must give final approval for the referendum to be placed on the ballot.

At Tuesday's workshop, district staffers will give their first formal presentation on the sales tax. Dubbed "Investing in Education," the presentation will lay out the district's needs, how it plans to use the money and how it has spent sales tax dollars in the past.

"We intend to use the presentation to go out to the community for town hall and homeowner meetings," said Roland "Bo" Bavota, the district's facilities director, who is leading the effort. "We will be presenting it to voters."

In it, the district stresses that the overall sales tax in the county would remain at 6.5 percent, that the rate is lower than it is in surrounding counties and that visitors and nonresidents would contribute.

They also will show exactly how the district has used sales tax dollars in the past, including one levy that helped pay for the construction of Nature Coast Technical High School and the current half-cent levy, which has gone for new construction, additions and debt payment. That tax expires this year.

The money generated by the renewed sales tax would be used for the district's technology replacement plan and its one-to-one initiative, which aims to provide a computer tablet for every student within three years. District officials say this will help them meet the state requirement for computer-based testing, provide virtual classrooms and help prepare students for employment in a global society.

"(We're) looking at bringing our students into the 21st century," Bavota said. "The tablet program benefits every child in the entire district."

Romano agreed.

"You're opening up a world to them and giving them a level playing ground — the ability to compete," she said. "You're creating equity."

Revenue from the sales tax also would be used to address the district's facility needs, some of which have recently been thrust into the spotlight.

In recent weeks, the district has focused attention on Westside Elementary School and a leaking roof that is expected to cost millions to replace. The project could displace students for a year. And if it proves too costly, the Spring Hill school could be closed.

"We need the half-cent sales tax," Bavota said. "We have a very, very big amount of needs."

Over the past several years, the district has been forced to defer significant maintenance needs.

Sean Arnold, the district's maintenance manager, says a district of Hernando's size should be spending about $8 million a year to maintain its buildings. He said his department spends closer to $2 million. His budget has shrunk every year since he took over in 2009.

State funds for capital needs have been nonexistent. Educational impact fees, which are a one-time levy on new construction, haven't been collected in several years, and the County Commission, at the urging of the home-building industry, recently declined to reinstate them.

The absence of impact fees is a major issue for Bavota.

Over the first four months of this year, Hernando has issued 98 building permits. At the full impact fee rate of $7,000, that translates into roughly $700,000 the district has missed out on, he said.

"We continue to bleed by not getting impact fees," he said.

District officials say that makes passage of the sales tax referendum all the more important.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

Hernando school officials to lay out sales tax referendum plans 05/02/14 [Last modified: Saturday, May 3, 2014 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  2. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. Young male hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A juvenile male was injured Monday morning in a shooting in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S, police said.

    A juvenile was injured in a shooting Monday morning in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S in St. Petersburg. (Zachary Sampson, Tampa Bay Times)
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts

    Business

    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]