Hillsborough County’s vote on a new tax to support schools was too close to call late Tuesday. With all of the county’s 448 precincts counted, the measure appeared headed for a recount.
The margin was razor thin, with 50.22% of voters against the measure and 49.78% in favor.
If approved, the tax of $1 on every $1,000 in assessed property value would raise about $146 million a year, with 16% of the proceeds going to privately managed charter schools.
District leaders had pledged to spend most of the money raising employee pay to keep Hillsborough competitive with surrounding counties that already have similar taxes. The district also said it would use the new revenue to expand arts programs and workforce education.
“I’m sad,” said School Board chairperson Nadia Combs. “I’m sad because it was so close. I’m sad for teachers, I’m sad for staff and I’m sad for society.”
In a tweet, superintendent Addison Davis said, “I thank everyone in our community who took the time to educate themselves on this important millage proposal. We look forward to the recount that the Supervisor of Elections will be undertaking given the incredibly close vote totals.”
He added: “This changes none of the amazing things that our students and staff have accomplished over the past two and a half years.”
In the race for the District 4 county commission seat, Brandon attorney Michael Joseph Owen was on the way to becoming the newest commissioner with a commanding lead. Owen led Noelle Licor, a small-business owner and chairperson of the county’s Citizens Advisory Committee, by 62% to 38% with 115 of 124 precincts reporting in the winner-take-all Republican primary.
Owen, 47, seeks to succeed Commissioner Stacy White, who must leave office after the November general election because of term limits. District 4, located primarily in eastern and fast-growing southern Hillsborough, faces strains on its road network, school and public safety services because of rapid growth. Both candidates said the lack of infrastructure was the top issue facing the district.
This is Owen’s second attempt at public office. He lost a race for the state Legislature in 2020. He received wide support from elected Republican officials and substantial campaign contributions from the business and development community. Through Aug. 5, he had raised more than $290,000 for his campaign, compared to less than $9,000 for Licor.
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In the countywide Republican primary for the District 7 commission seat, Joshua Wostal, 38, led fellow first-time candidate Chase Harrison by 51% to 49% with 427 of 448 precincts reporting. The winner faces Democratic incumbent Commissioner Kimberly Overman in November.
Wostal is a 10-year U.S. Navy veteran who settled in the Tampa Bay area after a late-career assignment at MacDill Air Force Base. The owner of a UPS store, he lives in the Westchase area of Tampa. During the campaign, he said he had been motivated to run by the county’s mask-wearing rules in the COVID-19 pandemic and said he believed county government needed more financial transparency.
Harrison, 62, a retired Tampa police officer, said his own get-off-the-couch moment came when he learned a county transportation tax had brought in more than $500 million in the two years it was collected. Through Aug. 5, Wostal reported raising $66,000, including $40,000 of his own money, or more than four times Harrison’s campaign account.
Hillsborough county commissioners’ annual salary is $105,239.
On the School Board, incumbent Stacy Hahn in South Tampa was well ahead of challenger Damaris Allen. Hahn, 55, is a career educator and onetime education professor seeking her second term on the board. Despite losing the Sun City Center area in a redistricting earlier this year, a community that would have been expected to support her heavily, Hahn took nearly twice as many votes as Allen.
Patti Rendon, 51, Danielle Smalley, 36, and Hunter Gambrell, 35, ran to replace Melissa Snively, a Lithia Republican who is stepping down after eight years representing East Hillsborough’s District 4.
Rendon, who was endorsed by Snively, seemed likely to avoid a runoff with about 53% of the vote with most precincts counted. The 51-year-old works for a company that provides case management for people with disabilities.
In countywide District 6, social worker Karen Perez, the 58-year-old incumbent, was trying to avoid a runoff against challengers Aly Legge, 35, a conservative candidate supported by the Moms for Liberty organization, and Roshaun Gendrett, 44, an education consultant who spent much of his career in California.
Perez is a clinical social worker who has taken a special interest in student mental health problems. With most but not all of the ballots in, Perez had 50.7% of the vote.
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