110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
posted Nov 8, 2012 - 8:43:23am
A referendum asking Volusians to tax themselves more to help schools failed at the polls Nov. 6, by just 944 votes out of 206,618 ballots cast.
Facing a $25 million deficit, the Volusia County School Board asked residents to vote for an extra mill of property taxes — $1 for every $1,000 of property value.
The first year, the new tax would have pulled in $26 million, enough to offset a decline in state revenues and close the school system’s budget gap without laying off teachers.
Cliff Martin, an Ormond Beach voter, was happy with the election results.
“I got my tax bill Nov. 1, and I opened it, and the school tax was better than 50 percent of the tax bill,” he said. “I can’t believe the arrogance of these people. We all need money.”
Volusia Tax Reform Executive Director Margie Patchett had been vocal in opposition to the additional tax. She was very happy with the results.
“The people have spoken; they just can’t handle any more tax increases,” Patchett said. “They believe the school district needs to do the same thing as the private sector.”
Patchett said the private sector has had to make deep cuts in recent years, including cuts in payroll and benefits.
Volusia County School Board members have warned that without the extra funding, arts and sports will face the deepest cuts.
Patchett said she hopes, if that happens, parents will make up the difference by working more closely with the schools.
“We want the best education for our children,” she said. “Certainly the arts are important. But the money should be spent in the classroom with the teachers.”
Volusia Tax Reform, she said, believes the district’s biggest problem is administrative bloat, and unfair funding by the state.
Patchett said Volusia Tax Reform would be glad to help the School Board lobby Tallahassee to change the way money is divided among school districts.
Currently, of every $1 of state money appropriated for schools by the Florida Legislature, Volusia County receives 96.1 cents, because of a complicated formula that considers the incomes and assets of Florida’s 67 counties.
If Volusia received the full dollar, perhaps no new taxes would be needed, Patchett said.
“The property tax is not the way to go,” she said. “Bad economy. Bad idea.”
School Board Member Candace Lankford said the local board has lobbied Tallahassee for more equal funding since 2004.
They haven’t stopped lobbying, but fixing the differential isn’t the sole answer, and it’s not going to help the immediate deficit, Lankford said.
“We took it to the Supreme Court in 2005-06,” Lankford said. “We have been working for Volusia to get a more fair share of funding.”
Lankford noted the school referendum lost by less than 1 percent of the vote.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Lankford said. “And I think it’s very shortsighted to not see the real value of education.”
The Volusia County School Board will begin immediate budget workshops to find ways to cut from its 2013-14 budget.
“We filled the gaps last year with nonrecurring money,” Lankford said.
She has been advocating passage of the referendum, speaking to local governments, civic groups, and other members of the public, for three months, warning them of the realities of additional budget cuts.
“There is a list of things we are going to have to consider as potential cuts,” Lankford said.
To see the list, visit www.myvolusiaschools.org/1mill.
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