A decision on whether to hold a sales tax referendum for school repairs in Duval County will have to wait.
At its final meeting Tuesday, the outgoing Jacksonville City Council rejected an attempt by Councilman Garrett Dennis to add a vote on whether the public should decide on Duval School Board’s proposed half-cent tax in November. Dennis received support from four of the 10 councilmembers needed.
Council President Aaron Bowman referred the proposed referendum back to the Finance and Rules Committees for the incoming council to take up.
A handful of speakers aired their frustration with the council, like Reverend Aaron Flag, who said by delaying the vote, the council to putting childrens’ lives at risk.
“If the house is on fire and burning our children to death and you won’t turn the water on to put the fire out, that is just wrong,” he said. “You say you want safety, peace and education for all children, that’s a lie when you won’t allow us to vote now on putting water on the fire.”
Duval has the oldest schools in Florida. About 65% of its buildings are more than 50 years old.
The sales tax is projected to generate about $80 million a year, for at least $1.3 billion over 15 years. The district says it needs nearly $2 billion to overhaul its older facilities.
Judy Shackland said she has granddaughters who attend schools in poor condition.
“Certainly it should not relate to your zip code, the quality of building and the education your children receive. And how we can allow this to occur in Jacksonville is a big disappointment,” she said.
The problem of aging facilities is concentrated in certain neighborhoods. Districts 3,4 and 5 account for 61.9% of the needed repairs, according to the facilities master plan.
A recent University of North Florida poll showed overwhelming bipartisan public support for holding the referendum.
Mayor Lenny Curry Wednesday released a video statement Wednesday morning. He said he’d like to see a plan with revenue projections, total project costs, and a cost analysis per location.
“If such a plan is created, I will stand ready to see it on the November 2020 ballot and advocate for its passage,” he said.
Other school districts in Florida, including St. Johns County, have held similar referenda to fund schools.