Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

Proponents gear up for Penny for Pasco campaign on November ballot

LAND O'LAKES — The campaign to renew the Penny for Pasco, virtually silent during the run up to the Aug. 14 primary election, is about to get busy.

Facing a crowded election season, with the sales tax referendum as the final item on the Nov. 6 ballot, proponents know they have much work ahead to get voters to find it worthwhile to go to the back page and vote "yes."

"We are 100 percent certain that when the voters understand the need and the good done by the Penny for Pasco ... there will be a resounding support," said Dade City lawyer and former mayor Hutch Brock, campaign co-chairman. "The challenge will be to educate."

Already, the school district distributed informational fliers to all parents on school registration day, explaining the history and the proposed future of the 1 percent tax. District officials have scheduled presentations to parent groups at every school, starting Sept. 4 at Anclote High.

County leaders are setting up sessions with homeowners associations and other civic organizations. They're asking any interested groups to contact them for a presentation. And the citizens committee is preparing to have a presence at events throughout the county, such as the upcoming Taste of Trinity.

"It's go time," Brock said.

Through early August, the campaign collected $43,075 to back its effort. Much of the money came from builders, who could get a piece of the construction that the tax would generate.

The campaign fund is covering the cost of signs, which will hit the streets in the next few weeks, and also paying for some consulting. Brock said the advice is needed, as the community volunteers don't know all the ins and outs of running a campaign.

They've hired former county government public information officer Diane Jones to handle the local daily activities, and Bradenton-based consultant Tom Nolan for the broader perspective. Nolan has advised several successful government tax referenda, which have generated around $10 billion, since the 1990s.

To get the message onto television and into mailboxes, though, the committee would need more.

"We are in full fundraising mode," Jones said.

They're not counting on a huge cash influx, given the tight economy and the expenses of other big races up the ballot. So the push for support will focus on the grassroots, including a strong online component that incorporates Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and three websites.

"We are trying to get the word out to the most people possible and asking them to share the message," Jones said.

The theme is one of promises made, promises kept.

The county and school district followed through on the promises they made to improve the roads and infrastructure, and build schools and remodel aging ones, with the first round of the tax that voters approved in 2004, Brock said. Residents therefore should rest assured that the governments can be trusted with the next list of projects if the tax passes again, he said.

While government officials can't urge support, they are doing their part by detailing the past performance and current need.

"We are just educating people," school district spokeswoman Summer Robertson said. "It's over $200 million at stake (for the district). We have tremendous need. If it passes it will help us meet that need."

Proposed new school district projects include major renovations of 1970s era Kelley schools, such as Land O'Lakes High and Bayonet Point Middle, as well as technology upgrades for several schools. The county's list for its share of the funds includes vehicles and equipment for public safety, economic development projects and several bicycle/pedestrian trails.

Brock said he feels confident in the worthiness of these projects. He doesn't want to take for granted that everyone will feel the same, though. That's why the campaign committee wants to get information to as many residents as possible.

"Some people are going to believe taxes in any form, in any way, shouldn't be approved," he said. "But then you have the people in the middle of the field. Those are the people we want to educate."

Pasco Republican Party activist Ann Bunting led opposition to the 2004 sales tax. She said she hasn't changed her views this time around.

But Bunting had no plans to fight the referendum this fall, and she hadn't heard of any organized effort either.

"That's problem with a tax: Once people live with it, they get used to it," she said. "It will probably pass, unless there is a strong grassroots effort that I really haven't been feeling."

Brock stressed that the tax is being pushed by residents, and not government. He suggested that's one of the reasons why it won support nearly a decade ago, and why he thinks it stands a good chance of renewal in the fall.

He wouldn't assume no opposition, regardless.

"I never want to rest, never want to think there aren't some folks out there," he said. "We are going forward with gusto."

Staff writer Lee Logan contributed to this report. 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
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
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18