In the News: La Gaceta Endorses HCPS 1 Mil Referendum

School Board Referendum

Shall the School Board of Hillsborough levy an ad valorem operating millage of 1 mil?

La Gaceta referendum endorsementWe are in business and know how difficult it is currently to find qualified employees, hire them and keep them. Everyone we speak with in the business world is suffering right now in trying to stay fully staffed.

The school district is having the same problem and the solution is to offer more money to attract and keep talented, certified teachers.

The Tampa Bay Times and others have recommended not voting for the tax. Some say the school district needs to get its house in order. It needs to right-size the number of schools it has. Many schools in the city are way under capacity. Many complain the district just asked for more money to replace air conditioners and perform maintenance. These people are correct. The district can do a better job of managing what it has. But if it corrects all of its problems, it is not going to create savings anywhere close to the $150,000,000 a new tax would.

Last year, 8,000 public school students in Hillsborough County didn’t have a certified teacher. This week, 500 school district employees were told they will move out of their current non-teaching jobs to serve as teachers in the classroom for at least the first 20 days of the school year. This is to plug the gap. We don’t have enough teachers to take care of the school population.

Some want to wait and pass this tax two years from now. That could mean 10,000-15,000 kids might have to have an uncertified teacher in their class. We can’t put a child’s education on hold for a couple of years until we are satisfied that the district has done a good job of eliminating under-capacity schools. To withhold this tax is to punish children for mistakes of this administration and past ones.

This underfunding starts, of course, in Tallahassee. This year, property tax value is up 15 percent in Hillsborough County. The City of Tampa and Hillsborough County will get 15 percent more revenue but the school district won’t. The State government will lower the millage to reduce the 15 percent revenue gain. That’s not right and our children’s education should not suffer from this.

Roughly 75 percent of the tax will be used for teacher and staff pay raises and according to state law, the tax must be shared with charter schools. The other 25 percent will be used to hire 60 teachers for the arts, music and physical education to expand those offerings that have suffered because of cuts. New music equipment will be purchased and money will be focused on workforce development.

The tax is only for four years. We can hold the district’s feet to the fire on spending this new money wisely because it will need to be renewed in four years with another public vote. Compared to other big school districts in Florida, this one is underfunded. We need to fix it. The Tampa Bay Times supported Tampa’s stormwater tax increase, millage increase and water and sewer fee and rate increases. Those added to much more than the schools are asking for. How does the Times deny children in need of support? Currently at La Gaceta, we pay more stormwater tax than school tax. That’s just wrong.

La Gaceta urges you to vote for our children, vote for teachers and vote for our future. La Gaceta endorses a YES vote on the School Board Referendum.