Orange County voters will decide fate of property tax on school funding
- Orange County voters will decide whether to extend a special property tax that provides local schools with additional funding
- The tax structure has been in place for twelve years and was extended in 2014 and again in 2018
- In the last fiscal year, the tax raised more than $800 million
- School district leaders warn its budget would have to be cut by $177 million if the measure is voted against
Voters in Orange County next month will be asked to vote for or against an extension of a special property tax that helps fund veteran teachers’ salaries, as well as arts and athletics programs. The measure will appear on ballots in the August 23 primary vote.
Earlier this year, the Orange County School Board voted in full agreement to put the proposal on the ballot. Active for twelve years, an extension would extend the measure until 2026.
Speak Orlando Sentinel, district leaders estimate the property tax would raise more than $800 million over a four-year period. in 2021, the levy provided almost $150 million, which is a considerable amount of funding.
At the county’s median property value — $265,030 — the tax amounts to about $240 per year, or $20 per month. Without the tax, the school district’s budget would have to be cut by $177 million, according to the same Orlando Sentinel report.
“The Orange County School District received a funding increase from the Florida Legislature for entry-level teacher salaries and to meet the $15 per hour minimum wage requirement for our lowest-paid staff, but has not received adequate funding to compensate experienced teachers and support staff,” an Orange County School District resolution states. “These inflation-adjusted funding cuts have resulted in reduced funding for programs and compensation for our most critical employees who meet the needs of our children and our schools.”
County residents voted to expand the tax in 2014 and 2018. The district says local revenue makes up 49% of its operating budget. Although he claims that the state contributes 51%, he states that this amount is insufficient to keep pace with inflation.
During the past school year, the school district reported that $85 million of tax revenue was spent on academic programs and staff salaries, $54 million supported arts programs, including theater and art costs, and $7 million to help fund school athletic programs. Funding is not limited to public schools, as the district’s charter schools received $12 million.
“The school board has determined that it is in the best interests of all students in Orange County, including those attending charter schools, to put before voters the question of approving the continuation of the additional ad valorem mileage. of a mill for four years for essential operating expenses,” the resolution concludes, adding, “The Orange County School District requires sufficient revenue to maintain and improve its high-quality schools.”
Counties across the state have implemented similar strategies to provide better funding for schools. Palm Beach County voters in 2018 approved a tax structure similar to Orange County’s that raises property taxes. Palm Beach County’s plan encompasses more than just academic programs, such as mental health initiatives and safety services, which could lead to even more counties asking voters to partially subsidize schools through taxes slightly higher.