JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A tax increase could be coming to property owners in the Duval County Public School district.
During a Tuesday committee meeting and board workshop, superintendent Dr. Diana Greene proposed the tax hike, a majority of which she explained would go towards staff and teacher salary.
The superintendent says this proposed tax increase will take Duval County schools to the next level by providing the salaries needed to recruit and retain teachers, while also improving educational programs for students.
The Duval County public school district is the 6th largest district in the state of Florida, but according to DCPS data, ranks 58 out of 69 for average teacher experience.
On top of that, over 1,000 district positions are vacant and over 400 are teacher positions. Vaccines have increased 98% since the start of the pandemic.
An impact felt on students, according to one Duval teacher.
"Viewers right now could turn to their school-aged kids and say, 'hey, how many of your classes had a substitute or how many of your classes were split today? And chances are, out of eight classes there would be at least two full-time subs just by the number of vacancies that we have," said Alex Ingram, a Duval County teacher.
It’s one of the reasons behind a proposed property tax increase.
“We want to go to the next level in being competitive in hiring new teachers as well as retaining our teachers," said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. "Today, we have approximately 400 teacher vacancies. And as we continue, we are seeing a national teacher shortage. And we're not seeing that shortage decreasing anytime soon.”
To put it in context, 1 mill is equal to $1 in taxes per $1,000 of taxable property value. For duval homeowners with a $125,000 home would see an additional $125 to the annual property tax bill due to the one mill increase.
“It's about competitive salaries, and focusing on enhancing the arts and our athletic programs," said Dr. Greene.
Duval's taxpayers just approved a half-penny sales tax increase in 2020, but that money can reportedly only be used for infrastructure projects like building and security upgrades. According to the district website, $92.27M from the Half-penny fund has been received between January and November 2021.
The proposed 1-mill property tax increase could bring in $81.8 million per year, most of which will go toward teacher and staff salaries.
"We have to continue to invest in our veteran teachers to show them, one, that we appreciate the work that they are doing," said Dr. Greene.
Duval County was 1 of 12 school districts that imposed a mask mandate and could lose money if the ‘Putting Parents First Adjustment” is passed.
But the Superintendent says money earned from the proposed property tax increase would not be impacted.
“Currently we have over a 5% fund balance and we will be able to absorb if that bill happens to pass but this 1 mill would not be in connection with that," Dr. Greene said.
The board plans to consider the proposed property tax at their March 1 board meeting.
If approved, the resolution will have to be filed with city council before appearing on the ballot for voters in August.