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Students, Teachers, Staff need voters support in Hillsborough Schools millage referendum

Voting is underway on the Hillsborough County millage referendum.
Voting is underway on the Hillsborough County millage referendum. [ Hillsborough County Education Foundation ]
Published Aug. 16

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In the Aug. 23 primary election, Hillsborough County voters will decide whether to approve the school millage referendum. The issue, which will be the last item on the ballot for most voters, asks for a 1 mil property tax increase—one dollar for each $1,000 of assessed home value or, for example, $250 per year for a $250,000 home.

The 4-year millage is projected to increase funding around $146 million annually for the district, which has committed to the following spending plan:

· At least 75 percent of the funding will be used to increase salaries to retain and recruit teachers and staff.

· The referendum will also protect and expand art, music, physical education and workforce development programs.

“Inadequate state funding, combined with the effects of a national teacher shortage and competitive job market, are impacting our district,” said Hillsborough Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell. “Every dollar of this referendum would remain in our community and public schools to ensure all students have a qualified teacher—giving kids the best education possible.”

As the new school year gets underway, the district continues to work to fill vacancies and still needs nearly 1,300 teachers, bus drivers and other support staff—the ability to pay competitive wages contributes to the challenges. Because of vacancies, approximately 8,000 students did not have a qualified teacher in their classrooms last school year.

Tampa native Doretha Edgecomb devoted 52 years to education as a teacher, principal, former Hillsborough County School Board Member and current Hillsborough Education Foundation Board Emeritus.

“As a lifelong educator, I know how hard our teachers work to support our students. Your “yes” vote would help Hillsborough Schools retain experienced and qualified teachers and staff. Our students deserve the best,” said Edgecomb.

“We understand any added tax can be a heavy lift for families. This investment in our students, teachers and public schools is critical and cannot wait,” Jowell said. “If this referendum does not pass, the ripple effect from a lack of funding will continue to be devastating for students’ learning gains. Our community’s economic growth and prosperity relies on a strong and supported education system.”

There is strong support from several local organizations and the business community endorsing the referendum, including: Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, Hillsborough School Employee Federation, Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, League of Women Voters, and the South Tampa and Tampa Bay Chambers.

“We support the referendum because adequately funding a robust education system is paramount to a strong and prosperous business community,” said Tampa Bay Chamber Chairman Andy Mayts.

Your voice matters in making this important investment in students, teachers and schools—vote by mail, at one of the early voting locations or at the polls on election day on Aug. 23.

“We all can play a role in strengthening public education—for our students today and for the future of our community,” said Jowell.

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