Hernando School Board eyes 2020 general election for possible tax increase vote

Hernando County School District, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Hernando County School District, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Published June 11, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board is eyeing the 2020 general election for a ballot measure that would have voters decide whether to raise taxes to help fund local schools.

The School Board gave consensus during a Tuesday workshop for staff to continue informing the board and planning an information campaign for a millage increase with November 2020 in mind. The ballot language would need to be finalized by next June, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson told the board.

Board members favored the general election because it offers a longer timeline for informing voters about where the increased funding would go, they said, and because the November general will presumably draw the highest turnout of next year's elections. Anderson said the board would not have to pay to put the measure on the general ballot.

The board discussed, but still hasn't settled on, a number of other aspects of the possible ballot measure. Those include how many mills the proposed raise will be. A mill is a unit of property tax measurement equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. The board could ask voters to approve an increase of as much as three mills, though several board members suggested they'd favor a one-mill proposal.

A one-mill bump would add an estimated $10 million to the School District budget each year for the four years it would stay in effect.

Where that money would go is also still under discussion. A presentation that district staff gave to the board Tuesday made a suggestion for how it would break down: About $7.5 million annually to make salaries more competitive and add personnel, $1 million each for student mental health services and school safety improvements, and $500,000 for other programs.

Board members wanted to spend more time adjusting those numbers, they said, and they spent much of the discussion batting around opinions on just how specific they should get in naming the funding destinations. Board member Jimmy Lodato advocated for detailed descriptions of where the money would go, saying that it's more likely to persuade tax-skeptical voters, while Superintendent John Stratton cautioned against getting so specific that the district couldn't adjust for unexpected costs later on.

Contact Jack Evans at Follow @JackHEvans.