JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local community group addressed the Duval County School Board on Friday to encourage people to support raising property taxes for teacher increases.
The Jacksonville Leadership Coalition and concerned ministers have asked Jacksonville residents to support the increase in the mill property tax, which is an issue in the Duval County ballot scheduled for August 23 in front of voters.
Pastor RL Gundy also appealed to former or retired teachers to return to teaching.
“It’s about the kids. It’s not about politics and I would ask that those who are retired and certified return to the school system so that we can have qualified teachers in our schools,” Gundy said. “And I would like to ask that the political system, the school system, the administration, the community and the parents support you when you come back. This is my request. We need your help.”
The nation suffers from a statewide teacher shortage and Jacksonville, with over 500 job openings, is no stranger to the problem. One of the main reasons for the shortage is the teachers’ salaries.
The proposed tax increase was already submitted in February. If approved, the school district expects the tax increase would raise at least $81 million annually — costing homeowners an additional $100 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s accessible value.
VOTER GUIDE | Referendum: property tax for schools
Some voters and homeowners have expressed their support for the referendum. Others, however, said they were worried about paying more taxes and believed raising taxes was not the right way to give teachers the funds they deserve.
News4JAX received a large number of insider comments opposing the passage of the referendum. In the past, voters seemed to support a tax hike, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to the school system.
Samantha Williams doesn’t support the tax hike.
“Property taxes are already increased, so if you increase them a little more … that’s it,” Williams said.
While raising property taxes will always be a concern for Tom Locke, he said he still approves of the tax hike for teachers.
“I think our teachers need to be paid for what they do. I hate to pay more than I have to, but I’m all for it,” Locke said.
TIED TOGETHER: Community group calls for “yes” vote to raise property taxes, fund teacher increases and other needs | The proposed tax hike benefiting Duval County teachers and schools is the focus of Tuesday’s discussion | EXPLAINER: Where will my extra tax money go if Duval approves teachers’ referendum?
The Jacksonville Leadership Coalition emphasized that when the state refuses or cannot find the resources to pay teachers more, it is the community’s responsibility to ensure that children in Jacksonville receive the best possible education.
Charna Flannoy also supports the increase.
“While I have no students or school-age children, I understand the importance of this additional expense to improve the school in the area,” Flennoy said.
The ministerial group called for Duval County schools to need certified and qualified classroom teachers and that the property tax increase would give teachers the competitive salary needed for the future of the children and the city.
Duval County School Board Superintendent Diana Greene said 75% of the $82 million generated by the proposed one-mill property tax increase would go toward staff and teacher pay increases. The remaining 25% would be divided between charter schools and arts and athletics in the district.
Despite opposition from some voters, the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition reassures voters that the increase will ultimately pay off — not just for the teachers, the community, or the constituents, but for the children as well.
Linda Harris retired from teaching 30 years ago and is responding to Gundy’s request by going back into the classroom because teaching “isn’t a job. It’s an obligation.”
There is need. It is necessary that we come back to the classroom. There are many certified teachers who have chosen to do different things in different ways, and they do it to help these kids,” Harris said. “I would like to go to the schools where we are needed and where there is a shortage.”
If passed, the tax increase is not permanent and would have to be voted on again in four years.
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