Mayor Says He’s Against Holding A November Referendum For A Proposed School Tax Hike

May 9, 2019

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is raising concerns about a proposal by the Duval County Public Schools Board that would ask voters to approve a half-cent tax increase to repair and replace the district’s aging schools in a November 5 referendum.

At a news conference Thursday, Curry questioned the timing of the proposal and said he’s waiting to see more details.

”The people of Jacksonville need to see more details. I do not support a special election for one referendum,” he said. “I think it’s too costly.”

The board Tuesday voted 6 to 1 in favor of seeking the November referendum for voters to decide whether or not to impose the tax that would help pay for nearly $2 billion of maintenance and building repairs as well as new construction.

“They’re going to have to make the case and work with the body of the City Council,” said Curry.

In a statement Monday, Jacksonville’s General Counsel wrote under state law the City Council has the authority to decide “whether and when” to put the proposed sales tax on the ballot and that the courts would not have a say in the matter.

Related: City Attorney: Council Must Decide ‘Whether And When’ School Tax Question Goes On Ballot

If the measure makes it on the ballot and voters approve the half-cent sales tax, it is projected to raise at least $1.3 billion dollars over 15 years.

The district has some of the oldest schools in Florida and says it needs $1.95 billion to renovate or replace its aging schools

Duval Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene was on First Coast Connect With Melissa Ross Tuesday. 

"We will have to work with our City Council to inform them of what this plan is about to help them see the urgency. We have schools that are over 100-years-old, and students that are attending those schools are not seeing 21st century resources in those schools," said Greene.

She said the proposed referendum is about starting the conversation. "So it's expected that there will be bumps in the road that we will have to overcome, obstacles where we will have to be very vigilant. We have to stay patient. We have to be understanding, we have to help individuals see the bigger picture." 

Greene also pointed out that the district doesn't levy any impact fees as many counties do. “Duval has a process called concurrency and unfortunately, we've not garnered any dollars from concurrency. So that has not supported the growth that is that is happening or will happen in Duval County."

The full audio interview with Greene is available here.

Melissa Ross can be reached at mross@wjct.org, 904-358-6382 or on Twitter at @MelissainJax.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, aadan@wjct.org or on Twitter at @abukaradan17