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Hernando Officials: Schools need tax extension

Tribune Staff

Published:   |   Updated: May 11, 2014 at 12:18 PM

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Hernando County school officials want voters in November to extend a half-cent sales tax to help pay for state-required technological advances, as well as new school construction and repairs.

An existing half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2005 is set to expire this year.

The school board is expected to pass a resolution calling for a referendum on the tax to be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot. The district has until August to present the resolution to Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson.

“If we’re not able to secure another half-cent sales tax, it would have a huge impact on the district,” said Roy Gordon, school district spokesman. “This is really just a continuation; the difference is how the funding will be focused. It’s a sales tax, which we collect from everybody. So, if you’re on your way to Miami and stop and have lunch here, you’re contributing.”

The school board was scheduled to view a presentation, titled “Investing In Education,” on the tax at Tuesday’s workshop, but it was removed from the agenda. Gordon said the presentation now is expected to be shown at the May 20 board meeting.

The half-cent sales tax first was approved by voters in 1999, primarily for the construction of Nature Coast High School. It was reapproved by voters in 2005 and expires in November.

Since 2005, the sales tax funded about $138.9 million in projects with $29.4 million in debt service paid, according to the district. A renewed half-cent sales tax would provide $35.25 million in funding for five years and $70.5 million over 10 years, the district has estimated.

That money could be crucial, as the district faces about $62.4 million in technology-related costs during the next decade, while maintenance costs over the next five years are calculated at just under $74 million, according to information on the district’s website.

New roofs, like one proposed for Westside Elementary School, are expected to last 25 years but cost an average of roughly $1.2 million. Meanwhile, needed heating, ventilation and air-conditioning replacements and upgrades cost an average of $1.5 million.

Money from the tax also would help fund computer-based testing mandated by the state Department of Education, digital textbooks and virtual classrooms. If it is passed in November, the tax would be in place for no longer than 10 years.

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