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Builders push for broader-based school funding

Nearly 3,000 two-by-fours, each 6 inches long, signed by members of the home-building industry in Pinellas and Hillsborough, are among 16,000 blocks that builders all over Florida sent this week to Tallahassee to Gov. Jeb Bush.

It's the builders' way of getting the governor's attention on the issue of school finance. Builders say the current sources of school funding _ property taxes and impact fees on new residential construction _ aren't enough. They want the governor and Legislature to consider "broad-based" sources of funds in which "we all pay our share," said Ron Coppenbarger, a Jacksonville builder who is president of the Florida Association of Home Builders.

Those sources might include reallocation of revenues from documentary stamps on deeds and mortgages, the intangibles tax and the telecommunications tax.

Coppenbarger spoke Tuesday as members of the Contractors & Builders Association of Pinellas got 2,000 blocks, each bearing a decal saying "Fund Florida's Future: Schools for Our Children," ready to ship to Tallahassee. Builders in Hillsborough sent off 800 blocks on Wednesday.

Builders cite a University of Florida study that they said shows only 30 percent of public school students come from new homes. The other 70 percent are residents of existing homes, on which no impact fees are levied.

The builders think the cost of building new schools should be spread equally over all buyers. Using money from doc stamps, which are paid by buyers of both new and resale homes, would do that.