Referendum Results – How the half-penny sales tax is improving our schools

From Hillsborough County Public Schools
For more information on the Education Referendum, click here.


The Education Referendum has been an integral part of our district’s quest to create the ideal learning environment for students in Hillsborough County Public Schools. When our community voted for this measure, we promised to utilize referendum funds exclusively to maintain facilities, thus ensuring children thrive in the right learning conditions which contribute to positive educational outcomes.

Hillsborough County Public Schools expects to complete more than 1,700 projects over the next decade, including more than 200 air conditioning units and 60 aging roofs. We anticipate investing $23 million in upgrading safety and security systems while providing state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. To provide a competitive and robust educational experience, we budgeted $25 million from our existing referendum to new classroom technology — preparing students for college and tomorrow’s workforce. This could not have occurred without steadfast support from our entire community.

Our district has worked diligently to communicate these efforts in the spirit of transparency as our stakeholders have entrusted us with a tremendous responsibility to remain fiscally responsible. I am deeply appreciative of the independent Citizen Oversight Committee which has been committed to reviewing all spending as we plan and complete projects. The committee includes members with a wide range of political, geographic, ethnic, and professional backgrounds who selflessly give their time to help our youth.

Despite a global pandemic, these crucial projects have been consistently prioritized and completed during the past two years. I want to thank the community for approving the referendum which will have a lasting impact on our learners for years to come.

Referendum dollars are used exclusively toward capital projects. These funds cannot be utilized for salary increases for our dedicated teachers and other staff members or to bolster classroom resources. Unfortunately, education funding has remained largely stagnant over the last decade in the state of Florida. We must collectively identify alternative revenue streams to support this district’s dedication toward improving working conditions for teachers and staff and providing innovative academic experiences for all learners.

Ensuring proper funding for our schools does not only impact students, teachers, and parents, it has wide-ranging effects on the fabric of our community. The work has only begun, and we remain dedicated to finding sustainable funding sources to ensure our students succeed. Together, we will Accelerate Hillsborough.


Addison G. Davis, Superintendent of Schools

Background on the Education Referendum

It all started in 2018 when district leaders educated voters in Hillsborough County about the benefits of a half-penny sales tax Education Referendum. In November 2018, voters showed up in force and approved the Education Referendum, a half-penny sales tax.

The money is spent solely on improving our facilities and other capital projects in our schools – replacing air conditioning units, improving old roofs, enhancing security systems, and repaving parking lots, among other necessary projects.

The district remains committed to spending at least $500,000 at every school and we are proudly well on the way to fulfilling that promise.

The half-penny sales tax was estimated to raise approximately $121-131 million per year for ten years, but projections appear to be higher than anticipated. Much of that will be generated by the many visitors that come to the Tampa Bay area, but all of it will benefit students in Hillsborough County.

Once the referendum passed, a Citizen Oversight Committee was assembled to oversee the spending, progress, and completion of school improvement projects and work began.

Throughout the school year, we have smaller referendum projects that take place and does not interrupt student learning. Our major A/C replacements are massive projects requiring crews come into schools to tear out classroom ceilings to replace ductwork, use cranes to lift chiller units, and have numerous workers on-site at one time. Because of that, the work can only be done during the summer, when schools are closed.

Revenue from a half-penny sales tax can only be used on capital expenses, which includes repairs, maintenance, technology, and security.

Those specific projects include:

  • Replacing or overhauling air conditioners
  • Fixing leaky roofs
  • Exterior and interior painting
  • Upgrading safety and security systems
  • Providing state-of-the-art equipment
  • New classroom technology

Aside from our referendum projects, the district’s normal repair and maintenance projects are funded through existing property tax millage. Our district will continue to receive this millage money and will direct it to regular repairs and upgrades.

The referendum funding provides a new source of revenue, accelerating projects that otherwise would not have been tackled for many years or may not have been completed at all.