JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Attracting new business and residents to our city requires a good school system.
"One of the first questions we get asked is, 'how are the schools?'" said Ron Harris.
Harris, the president-elect of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, supports what the Duval County School Board is trying to do.
"They're talking sales tax, not ad valorem, which helps to spread the cost," he said.
But so far it has no strong endorsement from Mayor Lenny Curry, or a number of members of the Jacksonville City Council.
"It is very disappointing," School board Chairwoman Lori Hershey said. "We have a city council that opted to defer it rather than send it to the voters to decide."
Hershey said they have done their homework. They have identified the need and created a plan to pay for those needs.
But members of the city council want to have oversight and say in what to do for charter schools.
"It is almost micromanagement of another government body," she said.
She said the district has identified $1.2 billion in needs and that will be used to upgrade school security, repair and replace some schools, remove portable classrooms, and create a 21st century school system.
The fact is, some of the oldest schools in the state are in the Duval County school district; about 65 percent of them are 50 years or older.
The school board is asking the city council for permission to put a referendum on the ballot asking voters to approve or reject a half-cent increase in the sales tax.
The tax would generate about $80 million a year and pay for the capital improvement plan.
On Tuesday a city council finance committee approved the question for the November 2020 ballot. But when it came to the rules committee, the proposal hit a snag.
It was deferred until the new city council takes office in July.
"By delaying it a year we are going to spend six million dollars in repairs on our schools," said Hershey.
Hershey said they will tweak their capital plan at an upcoming workshop and give it final approval at the board's July meeting.
"The real ask is will the city council won't allow the voters to decide," said Hershey.
She said in Florida cities where this effort has been successful they had the strong support of the mayor and chamber of commerce in those communities.
Here in Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry has yet to voice public support for the referendum, he said he did not like it on the ballot in 2019, and the chamber is also silent.