Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Broward School Board to vote on tax hike proposal for security, teacher pay

Scott Travis Sun Sentinel May 8, 2018

Broward County voters may be asked to pay more to help provide better school security and better pay for teachers.

The Broward County School Board vote is scheduled to vote today whether to place the request on the Aug. 28 ballot.

The district would request an additional 50 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property value. For a homeowner with a $225,000 home and a homestead exemption, that would be about $100 a year.

It would raise about $93 million a year for the district.

The school district said the money is needed to make security upgrades for schools in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

Some of the money would be used for one-time teacher bonuses. District officials say they can’t provide annual raises because the tax would expire in four years, and there’s no guarantee voters would renew it.

Chief Financial Officer Judith Marte said last month that without more revenue, it will be tough to increase teacher pay this year.

“To give some people raises, we’d have to lay people off, given the funding we have,” she said.

The school district last asked county voters for a tax increase in 2014 to pay for an $800 million bond referendum. The program has faced public criticism due to delays and big cost increases for some projects.

The district still has $645 million of those bonds that have yet to go to the market,. The district isn’t allowed to sell bonds unless it’s ready to spend the money, and most construction is delayed. Among the projects are behind are $100 million in safety and security projects, including fire alarms and gates and fences to restrict visitor access.

Most School Board members have voiced support for the new money, saying state funding hasn’t kept pace with the district’s needs.

The discussion on the tax is expected to start at 1:30 p.m. It will be streamed on the school district’s website.

stravis@sunsentinel.com, 561-243-6637 or Twitter @smtravis