SEBRING — Faced with a long list of needs at every school, the School Board of Highlands County is poised to vote on a resolution seeking a referendum to impose a half-cent sales tax for a 15-year period.
During a workshop Tuesday, the board discussed a draft resolution to place the half cent sales tax referendum on the ballot of the Nov. 4 general election.
Superintendent of Schools Wally Cox said the school board discussed the 15-year time period mentioned in the draft resolution and left it at that.
“It’s always subject to change on May 20,” which is when the board is scheduled to vote on the resolution, he said.
Currently a half-cent sales tax would generate about $4.5 million annually, Cox said. Multiplying that by 15 years (which results in $67.5 million) would provide an estimate of the district’s overall revenue from the tax without factoring growth.
The draft resolution states that the school board would “freeze” the capital school property tax rate at 1.50 mils for a period of three years from Jan. 1, 2015.
Cox said the half-cent project needs will emphasize security and safety, technology in the classroom, new classroom wings at Park and Lake Country elementary schools, school maintenance and purchasing school buses.
Cox said Assistant Superintendent of Businesses Operations Mike Averyt did research on whether buses could be purchased with half-cent revenue. There are three or four counties that have purchased school buses with their half-cent money.
“That’s a big issue because we had been replacing nine to 10 (buses) a year and now we haven’t bought a bus in the last five years,” he said. “The fleet is getting really old. We have a lot of concerns about making sure that every kid has safe transport.”
How will they publicize the district’s half-cent effort?
“We are going to try and get parents involved, teachers involved and business people involved,” Cox said.
But, first, the school board has to approve the resolution and then it goes to the county commission for its approval, Cox explained.
“Once we know that everything is official and it’s going to be on the ballot, then we will proceed on building the campaign,” he said.
The school board recommended focusing on four or five main talking points and there will be backup data, but most people don’t want that much information, Cox said.
The project list shows security fencing, cameras and lighting needs at nearly every school.
Here is a snapshot from one school’s proposed project list.
The remodeling and renovation projects for Sebring High include: re-work pool deck, rehab lockers, rehab restrooms at Firemen’s Field, asbestos abatement, re-roof buildings 5 and 11, replace chiller, replace HVAC systems, new phone system, replace carpet and tile, PE/athletic fields and renovate bleachers.
The Sebring High technology initiative needs include: computers/workstations, interactive white boards/projectors, audio enhancement and document cameras and student software.
The school’s equipment needs include: student desks and chairs, teacher desks and chairs, cafeteria tables, tractor for vocational program, diving board and music and band equipment