Millage Referendum

CRITICAL UPDATE

The Hillsborough County Millage Referendum for Public Schools Students has been delayed by the Board of County Commissioners.

HEF Supports the Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students

Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) strongly advocates for registered voters in Hillsborough County to support the upcoming Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students when it appears on ballots this fall. This critical vote will determine whether Hillsborough County can secure the necessary funding to adequately compensate our educators and support staff, improve our public education system, and ultimately ensure a brighter future for our community.
millage
HEF President and CEO Anna Corman addresses the media at a millage referendum press conference on March 28, 2024.

What’s a millage?

  • A millage rate is a property tax rate used to calculate local property taxes.
  • From the Florida Department of Revenue’s Homeowner’s Guide: “Millage is a tax rate defined as the dollars assessed for each $1,000 of value; one mill is one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.”

What’s the purpose of this millage?

If you haven’t been keeping up with local news stories, like this one from the Tampa Bay Times, or this one from Fox 13, here’s the gist:

  • The Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students is a modest property tax that will generate a projected $177 million annually, with 92% dedicated to raising pay for teachers and support staff.
  • This funding will provide an estimated $6,000 supplement for teachers and a $3,000 supplement for support staff such as bus drivers. These increases are essential to stop the outflow of talent to neighboring counties and states, where pay is more competitive.

Why should I support this?

Simply put, an educational crisis has been brewing in Hillsborough County for the past few years, and the impact is starting to be felt.

  • Hillsborough County Public Schools is facing a severe shortage of teachers and support staff. At the beginning of the 2023 school year, 10,000 students started without full-time teachers, and there are still 473 vacancies as of April 2024. Additionally, due to a bus driver shortage, 8,000 students arrive late to school on a typical day. This shortage impacts the quality of education our children receive and undermines their prospects.
  • Teachers are leaving Hillsborough County because they can earn more in neighboring counties and states, where millages support higher salaries. Pinellas, Manatee, and Pasco counties have all implemented millages to ensure their teachers are competitively compensated, allowing them to attract and retain talented educators. Pinellas County, in particular, has had their millage in place for the past 20 years, and it was renewed again in 2020.
  • According to the National Education Association, Florida ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to teacher pay. Hillsborough County’s spending per student is significantly below the U.S. average, contributing to our inability to retain and attract high-quality educators.

What is this going to cost me?

The cost to a typical homeowner is modest, averaging about $281 per year, based on a home valued at $306,000. If you’re interested in seeing how much this would cost you, check out the Hillsborough County School Board Proposed Millage Referendum Calculator.

So, this is just about teachers wanting more pay?

Supporting the Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students is not just about raising salaries; it is about investing in the future of our community. It is about ensuring every student has access to quality education, every educator feels valued and supported, and every family can have confidence in our public schools.

I don’t have kids; why should I care?

  • Supporting the Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students is crucial for everyone in Hillsborough County, not just those with children in public schools.
  • Quality public education impacts property values, crime rates, and the overall economic health of our community. By investing in our schools, we invest in a brighter, more prosperous future for all residents.

What happens if this millage doesn’t pass?

Public education is the cornerstone of any successful community. If the exodus of teacher talent continues in Hillsborough County, the outlook is grim. Here are some unfortunate possibilities:

  • Fewer Employment Opportunities: Education significantly impacts employment prospects. Individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages. Without quality education, our children will be less prepared for future job markets, reducing employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as workers’ educational attainment rises, their unemployment rates decrease, and their earnings increase. For instance, in 2022, the median weekly earnings for workers with a bachelor’s degree were $1,432, while those without a high school diploma earned $682 per week. Additionally, the unemployment rate for individuals with a high school diploma was 4.0%, compared to 5.5% for those without a high school diploma​ (BLS)​​ (BLS)​​ (BLS)​
  • Lower Property Values: Strong public schools are a key factor in maintaining property values. Communities with high-quality schools attract families and boost property values. As the quality of education declines, so will the desirability of our neighborhoods, affecting property values for all residents. Research conducted by the United States Joint Economic Committee illustrates that areas with high-quality schools have significantly higher home values.​ (United States Joint Economic Committee)​.
  • Business Departure and Inability to Attract New Business: A less-skilled workforce can lead to businesses leaving the community and an inability to attract new businesses. Companies seek locations with a skilled labor pool to ensure they can meet their operational needs. A well-educated workforce drives innovation, productivity, and economic growth. When a community lacks this talent, businesses may relocate to areas with better educational outcomes, taking jobs and economic opportunities with them. This trend can create a cycle of decline, where decreasing educational investment leads to economic downturns, further reducing the community’s ability to invest in education.

Additional reading about economic impacts:

    1. Research by the Brookings Institution emphasizes that the quality of the workforce is critical for economic development. It states that businesses are more likely to relocate to areas with a well-educated workforce, fostering innovation and productivity. This relocation results in economic prosperity for regions with higher educational outcomes while contributing to the decline of those lacking skilled labor. (Brookings)​​ (Brookings)​​ (Brookings)​.
    2. Keenan Institute of Private Enterprise study highlighting the strong correlation between higher education levels and economic performance.
    3. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study indicating that skilled workers significantly contribute to regional economic performance, and that investments in education and training enhance workforce capabilities, making regions more attractive to business, leading to greater economic stability and growth.

Aren’t Hillsborough County Public Schools included in the CIT renewal?

Yes, they are. However, it’s important to note that the CIT renewal and the Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students are entirely separate matters that would fund entirely separate things.

  • CIT renewal
    Money raised from this initiative and provided to Hillsborough County Public Schools would be restricted to capital expenses, like new school construction or maintenance for existing schools.
  • Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students
    Money raised from this initiative and provided to Hillsborough County Public Schools would go toward operating expenses, like increased teacher pay.

As you can see, both initiatives are important to public education in Hillsborough County.

A call to action

Make no mistake: the stakes are sky-high. That’s why Hillsborough Education Foundation strongly urges every resident of Hillsborough County to support the Hillsborough County Millage for Public School Students this November. The future of our children, our community, and our economy depends on it. Public education is the cornerstone of any thriving community, and now is the time to invest in it.

Let’s keep Tampa strong and prosperous.