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Jax City Council’s Finance Committee Wants To Withdraw School Sales Tax Referendum

Jacksonville City Hall
Steven Martin

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee wants the full council to withdraw legislation to put a half-cent sales tax referendum before the voters. 

The committee Tuesday voted 5-2 to recommend killing the bill, which is projected to raise at least $1.3 billion over 15 years to overhaul old schools in the Duval County Public Schools district. 

At the same time, the School Board’s answers to questions posed by City Council members got a green light in the Rules Committee.  

Some council members, including Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber, have said the School Board has failed to answer important questions, but School Board Chair Lori Hershey contends the council keeps moving the goal post.

“We answer one question and then another one comes up. And this question has recently come up about priorities,” she said. “The City Council auditor has a copy of the 500 page report from Jacob’s engineering, so the City Council members do have access to comb through that report.”   

Cumber said the board hasn’t provided a timeline of when schools would be repaired.  “I can’t possibly agree without knowing what’s going to happen,” she said during the Finance Committee meeting. 

Hershey pointed out Cumber twice cancelled a meeting with Superintendent Diana Greene, and Hershey said it’s difficult to provide construction dates without funding.

Cumber was joined by City Council members Aaron Bowman, Tommy Hazouri, Randy DeFoor and Ron Salem in recommending a withdrawal in the Finance Committee. 

In the Rules Committee, Councilman Rory Diamond motioned to withdraw.   

“I think there is a path forward where communication with our School Board can continue,” he said. “I think we’re very close.”  But his motion failed by a vote of 4-3.     

The sales tax measure is set to go before the full City Council next week. 

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, or on Twitter at @abukaradan17

Abukar Adan is a former WJCT reporter who left the station for other pursuits in August 2019.