Making Sense of the Proposed Half Cent Sales Tax
HERNANDO – Those who follow politics are probably glued to their televisions every evening, waiting to find out who’s jumping on or off presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign train. But you may want to take a moment to look in your own backyard before September 8th, and decide if you are for or against a proposed half cent sales tax for Hernando County Schools.
In a recent RNRF survey, we asked our viewers what they thought of the proposed tax and if they planned to vote yes or no in September. The results of the survey were about 60/40, in favor of the new tax, but there was some confusion as to what the revenue would actually be used for.
Here are a few excerpts from our Yay or Nay question to viewers:
Yay – Eric Nelski says, “Do any of you non supporters of this tax realize a poor school system equates to a lower standard of living within the community. It will also lead to higher amounts of crime. So voting no will adversely affect everyone who lives in Spring Hill.”
Yay – Pam Ceurvels Rogers says, “This is going for hiring and retaining teachers for our students!! This will be the first year in 25 years I will have no children in school BUT I’m thinking about our future. These kids will be running this country soon!!! We have to help now!”
Nay – Joan Jasones Anderson says, very sternly, “NO MORE TAXES – THEY NEED TO LEARN HOW TO BUDGET OUR TAX DOLLARS – THEY CAN START BY LOWERING THE POLITICIANS PAYCHECKS”
Nay – Kelly Stacy says, “Voting for the tax increase would be easier if people were more confident in how officials will spend it.”
Abstained – Timothy Desmond says, “What’s the difference if they don’t get it they’ll just go behind our backs and raise the gas tax again. We already have the highest gas in the Tampa bay area and the commissioners stick it to us again. How about taxing a harmful luxury like tobacco or alcohol, we need fuel to get to work it’s a necessity.”
If you think this is a politically partisan issue, you would be wrong; local leaders on both sides of the Isle have come together in support of the tax.
Hernando Chamber of Commerce Chairman, John Mitten says, “We must make repairs to our schools… As a caring community we must save our schools and save our students on Sept. 8th.”
Chairman of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee, Jimmy Lodato, urges citizens to vote yes and bring back the tax. “As a community we must come together. The key to economic development is education” says Lodato.
During an interview, Journalist and FOX News Contributor, Gregg Laskoski says, “…bringing back the half-cent makes sense for everyone, even for retirees who may have no kids in Hernando schools, because communities that support their schools and have well-performing schools benefit from the enhancement that quality schools represent for residential property values.
To some, a “yes” vote makes perfect sense, but there are skeptics who want to know exactly where the revenue will be applied and when there will be noticeable results.
We asked Hernando County School Board Representative, Eric Williams, to clarify some of the concerns regarding the proposed tax.
RNRF: Where will revenue derived from this tax be specifically allocated? Will it be used for Programs, repairs, salary, expansion, common core tablets, the arts, sports, etc.?
Williams: The sales tax will ONLY support facilities repairs/renovations, nothing else. The specific projects are outlined in Exhibit A in the attached Board-approved (BOCC-approved also) resolution.
In part the resolution states; Projects consists of fixed capital expenditures or fixed capital costs associated with the reconstruction or improvement of school facilities and campuses which have a life expectancy of five years or more… neither the proceeds of the surtax nor any interest accrued shall be used for operational expenses. (A Link to the Resolution will be located at the bottom of this article)
RNRF: Some say this is a “10 year plan.” If so, do you have a hierarchy of priorities and a timeline as to when each goal will achieved?
Williams: The timeline is clearly outlined in the Board-approved resolution. Exhibit A is our Board-approved 5-Year Facilities/Operations plan.
RNRF: Many are concerned with the depletion of school programs, especially those in the arts. What will be done to address that issue and when will those programs be brought back to the schools?
Williams: Potential sales tax revenues cannot be used for anything but “capital” projects. Any cuts to programs for the 2015-16 school year are not a DIRECT result of the loss of sales tax revenues; they are a result of a $6.3 million budget shortfall for 2015-16. Programs (art & music) are funded through the district’s General Fund (not Capital). The biggest expense for these programs is typically salaries/benefits for teachers.
Sales tax revenues cannot be used for salaries/benefits for teachers. Any art/music programs cut as a result of our $6.3 million budget shortfall will be restored as funding allows and at principals’ discretion.
RNRF: How will the oversight committee be selected and how many will be seated on that board?
Williams: It will be an “audit” committee, not an oversight committee. This audit committee will verify that sales tax revenues have only been used on pre-approved facilities projects outlined in the Board-approved resolution (also in the 5-year facilities operations plan) and will report on the progress in completing projects to the Board and the public. They WILL NOT determine priorities for completing pre-approved projects, as this has already been determined by facilities/operations experts based on the age of the facility and the conditions of the (for example) roofs and HVAC units. The composition and manner of selection for members of the half cent sales tax audit committee will be determined after Sept. 8, but we assure voters that there will be an audit committee.
Local voting precincts can be found on the Supervisor of Elections Website at www.hernandovotes.com
Follow this link to read the resolution in its entirety: ½ SALES TAX RESOLUTION 15-021
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