School boards around state want more tax power - FOX 35 News Orlando

School boards around state want more tax power

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The Florida Association of School Boards is asking the Florida Legislature for the power to raise property taxes without going to the voters. 

Included in the group's legislative priorities for the upcoming year is the power to raise taxes by either a quarter or half mill without a referendum, just a simple majority vote by a school board.

Volusia School Board Chairman Diane Smith said it takes too long and costs money to take that referendum to the public.

"We've been really lucky in Volusia. We've brought it to the voters, and they've approved when we did, but what happens is, you're waiting for that whole process of getting it on the ballot, waiting for an election," she said.   "Our voters elected us, because they had confidence in our ability that we do what is right for students."

Amy Lockhart with the Seminole School Board said their voters approved a property tax increase last year, and that's the way it should be. She asked that the ability to raise taxes not be part of the platform at all.

"I think that's something the voters ought to be able to have a say in. I think we do have some local controls still, very little left. We do have some, and I think that's something we need to share with our voters.

Another big change the Florida School Board Association is looking for is more flexibility with current and future taxes.  They want to be able to use sales tax revenue for either operations or capital projects.

Under current state law, sales tax increases for schools can only be used for capital projects. The SBA would like to be able to use that money for things like teacher pay, bus transportation and more.

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