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School board members say half-cent sales tax will improve schools and entire community

About 67% of voters in Duval County voted in favor of the half-cent sales tax. It will go into effect in January.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Expect to see start paying a bit more on sales tax in Duval County in the new year. Voters passed a half-cent sales tax to benefit the local public school system.

The money from the tax will begin to trickle into the hands of the school board starting in January. Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene says over the 15 years that this tax will be in place, it is expected to generate about $2 billion. 

She says the state has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in school funding over the years and the district will use this money to fix schools in disrepair. 

Jacksonville City Councilmember Matt Carlucci says cities are known for several things – one of them being their schools. With this money, he predicts improvements in many areas.

“We are this far from being an A district and then you add the 21st century schools," Carlucci said. "Our city is going to attract a lot of businesses, a lot of jobs, and our workforce is going to be spectacular because of our students coming out of these schools.”

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President of Jacksonville Public Education Fund, says they’ve been polling the community for years to see if people would be willing to pay more in sales tax to help the public schools. She calls this moment historic.

“It shows that our community is united in its vision and support of our public school students," she said. "It shows that we understand how much of an economic boost this is going to be for our city.”

Results from the Duval elections website show about 67% voted in favor of this tax. School board members say this money will impact every school in the district. 

Duval County School board member Lori Hershey says studies show environment matters and can affect a student’s achievement. 

“The important thing is that we are going to make facilities equitable," Hershey said. "They're going to be safer. We are going to be able to improve the technology in our schools and every school in our city will be touched.”

Chairman of the Duval County School Board Warren Jones says this should have been done years ago. 

“Those of us who grew up in Jacksonville have seen the gradual decline over decades of our schools," Jones said.

Ourduvalschools.org, run by Duval County Public Schools, is dedicated to explaining the need for the funding and answering questions. They list five reasons for change on this website. 

Credit: Ourduvalschools.org

DCPS says "A Citizen Oversight Committee will review the spending, progress and completion of all projects. They will have access to and regularly review all records to make sure money is spent as promised. The members of the committee cannot be employed by our district or benefit financially from the projects."

By law, the money can only be spent on school security upgrades, technology infrastructure, school renovations, new schools and large maintenance needs. 

If you were wondering how this might impact charter schools, DPCS answered that question on the website saying "Duval County Public Schools will comply with the new state statute passed by the legislation this year to distribute funds to charter schools on a per student allocation. Charter schools will decide how to spend their share. Traditional schools will also get a per student allocation but it will be distributed based upon a comprehensive study on prioritized needs for safety, repairs, renovation and construction of facilities. In other words, schools with the greatest needs and oldest facilities will be prioritized, and every school will equally benefit with safety and security measures within the first three years."