Hike funding

Hillsborough County schools put school funding referendum to the test

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Aug. 23 primary election will see Hillsborough County voters decide whether to approve the school board’s latest proposal: another mileage increase for schools.

The referendum would allocate more funds to schools in Hillsborough County through an increase in homeowner taxes (mileage rates). The district plans to use the increased budget for renovations, as well as increased staff salaries and better-funded programs.

The language of the ballot reads as follows:

Will the Hillsborough County School Board levy an ad valorem operating mile of $1 million per year for the fiscal years July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2027, to (i) increase compensation to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and staff, (ii) develop art, music and physical education, (iii) develop workforce development, share funds with charter schools in proportion to enrollment students, as required by law, with annual reports to ensure proper management of funds to taxpayers?

Hillsborough residents may recall a similar proposal approved in 2018. It raised the sales tax with a promise to fix schools and pave the way for other improvements.

With accusations of mismanagement of funds by previous administrations, some are opposing the new measure, wondering if the time is right.

Superintendent Addison Davis addressed those concerns in an interview with ABC Action News.

“This is the first year in a decade that the school district will not end in a financial deficit, and it was due to some tough decisions,” Davis said. “But it was what we had to do, and I had to do it as a leader so that I could protect this organization, so that the state of Florida didn’t put us in receivership.”

The superintendent hailed the previous referendum in June, which saw Hillsborough schools complete more than 400 projects. They also planned to invest $23 million in security measures.

“During the duration of this referendum, 1,700 projects will be able to be recognized and completed with hard work, dedication to ensuring that our children can have a safe place, a prosperous place and build a culture that shows that we are truly, take care of them and truly appreciate them every day,” he said.

The proposal is an increase of 1 mill, equal to $1 for every $1,000 of an owner’s property value. If approved, homeowners won’t see a tax increase until next summer and will phase it out in four years. An extension could also be approved by voters if needed later.