Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Education

If voters extend penny tax, list of school projects is long

LAND O'LAKES — Backers of extending the Penny for Pasco sales tax for another decade are fond of the phrase "promises made, promises kept."

Nearly a decade ago, officials set out specific lists of how they would spend the Penny, and proponents say they've lived up to that list. Even some opponents of the original 2004 measure became supporters after attending the Pasco school district's oversight committee meetings, where members kept tabs on Penny-supported projects and their associated budgets.

"As we reviewed the projects, it was very important to us … that they trusted us," said John Petrashek, school district director of new construction. "It was ingrained in us to make sure we fulfilled the commitments. … If we haven't hit all of them, we've hit most of them."

By the time the 10-year life of the tax is up, it's expected to generate $139 million for the school district (not counting the roughly $8.5 million annual reimbursement the district received to offset a property tax cut, which officials promised to voters who approved the sales tax increase).

When promoting the original tax, the district made plans to build nine schools and improve 10 existing campuses. The projects by and large got done as promised. The differences came mainly in the details.

For instance, the original plan called for two middle schools, one in Shady Hills and one in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. Both got built, but just one — Crews Lake Middle — was purchased with Penny funds. John Long Middle opened as intended, but officials freed up other revenues to pay for it.

The project list also included five new elementary schools, including three in west Pasco and two in south-central Pasco. Five new elementary schools did rise using sales tax money — Veterans, Oakstead, New River, Double Branch and Gulf Trace — but just one of those (Gulf Trace) was in west Pasco. The others all were along the State Road 54 corridor between Odessa and Wesley Chapel.

The School Board did purchase land in Hudson intending to erect an elementary school, but never built there.

District planning director Chris Williams said the ultimate decision on where to place the schools hinged primarily on population demands. Growth anticipated in Hudson never materialized, he explained, while families poured into the south-central region of the county.

"We're not going to just go build a new school for the sake of building it," Williams said.

The plan called for and supported two new high schools, Anclote and Sunlake.

The construction program also included major renovations at Pasco, Centennial, Cox, and San Antonio elementary schools; Pasco, Stewart and Gulf middle schools; and Pasco, Gulf and Zephyrhills high schools. With a few small exceptions, all the details were attended to, from new roofing and air conditioning at Gulf Middle to a classroom replacements at Stewart Middle.

Because of savings in some areas, the district was able to expand initiatives at several schools, adding to the scope of work. Zephyrhills High, for instance, got an unscheduled new security system, bleacher renovations, parking lot repairs and science lab remodeling.

Improvements at Pasco Middle, including a new media center, cafeteria and classrooms, grew from a planned $4.3 million expense to a $9.3 million effort. Pasco High's overhaul, including new classroom buildings, expanded from an initial $5 million budget to a $17.3 million project that changed the school's entire look.

A few of the projects, such as improvements to the music and art classrooms at Cox Elementary and new freezers and coolers at Pasco High, are set for 2013-14. The district expects to receive more than $220 million if voters decide Nov. 6 to renew the Penny for another decade. Officials have a long list of projects for which that money would be slated.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — A second district-wide survey to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Lori Romano soon will go out to about 3,000 Hernando County School District employees, giving them a chance to weigh in on the job she is doing.The instrument, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

LAND O’LAKES — An investigation continues after a video surfaced on Tuesday that shows a Sunlake High School school resource officer wrestling a female student to the ground while taking her into custody, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Offic...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins is proud of his record in boosting high school graduation rates and inroads he has made in marketing the nation’s eight largest school district.His seven bosses on the School Board...
Published: 04/25/18
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions. They also said that as a result of his actions, he wil...
Updated: 5 hours ago
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Battle continues over west Pasco school rezoning

Jim Stanley does not give up without a fight.The west Pasco County parent who brought down the school district’s 2017 attendance zone revisions, leading the administration to change its procedures along the way, has filed a new challenge to the syst...
Published: 04/24/18
Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

Crews Lake eighth-grader already capable musician

SPRING HILL — Rose Dodd, 2 months old, couldn’t yet grasp a rattle, but there she was years ago at hand-bell choir practice at Keystone United Methodist Church in Odessa.Rose, 14, a Crews Lakes Middle School eighth-grader, is back at hand-bell practi...
Published: 04/24/18
Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

Hillsborough: No way we can afford teacher raises this year

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District is in bad financial shape and its reputation for sound management is perhaps undeserved, the district’s own fiscal team testified Monday in a hearing concerning teacher salaries.The district "made finan...
Published: 04/23/18

School news for April 27

School Calendar• May 17-20: High school graduations• May 25: Last day of school for studentsBriefs• School Safety Town Hall Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. May 2 at River Ridge Middle/High, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey and 6 to 8 p....
Published: 04/23/18
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18