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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Hernando school board looks to renew half-cent sales tax


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BROOKSVILLE - The Hernando County School Board will forward a modified version of a current half-cent sales tax to the Florida Department of Revenue in hopes of renewing the tax.

If placed on ballots during this year's primary or general elections, the proposed resolution would renew the tax after it expires Dec. 31, and with added allocations to support internet and computer upgrades.

If approved by voters, the tax would generate an estimated $115,730,321.60 for the district over 10 years. "The board chair received notice from Florida Department of Revenue if the district was inclined to proceed to request to renew that surtax," said board attorney Dennis Alfonso. "We would have to notify the state of our general intention to proceed along that path."

If the department of revenue does not respond with any findings or comments about the tax, then the draft can be presented before the board for final approval, Alfonso said.

Voters first approved the tax in 1999, which went primarily toward the construction of Nature Coast High School, according to the district.

The tax was reapproved by voters in 2005 and funded about $138.9 million in projects with $29.4 million in debt service paid, according to the district.

Current sales tax proceeds must be used for fixed capital expenditures, or fixed capital costs associated with the construction or improvement of school facilities and campuses with "a useful life-expectancy of five or more years," as well as any land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs associated with such facilities and campuses.

However, board members have the option to revise the referendum's language to include other expenditures, notably recent technology upgrades mandated by the state for computer-based testing.

A tentative draft shows the new half-cent sales tax could be used for construction, reconstruction, remodeling, major component upgrades in computer and internet hardware and software, increased bandwidth, life safety upgrades, and facility improvement.

The district estimates it will incur $17 million in costs for technology and computer lease upgrades during the first three years of its implementation, or $33.7 million in recurring costs over 10 years.

The board's next scheduled meeting is April 1.

(352) 544-5271

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