Orlando Sentinel | By Leslie Postal | April 26, 2022
The Orange County School Board again wants county residents to approve the extension of a special property tax that helps pay veteran teachers’ salaries and fund arts and athletic programs for students.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the Orange County commissioners to put a one-mill tax proposal on the August ballot, asking voters to continue the 12-year-old tax for another four years. The tax question would appear on the Aug. 23 ballot, the primary election for many races but also when many non-partisan school board contests are decided.
The board did not discuss the tax at Tuesday’s meeting, nor did anyone from the public speak about it.
The special property tax passed for the first time in 2010 with nearly 55% of the vote. More than 76% voters agreed to extend it in 2014, and about 85% approved another extension in 2018.
Orange County Public Schools estimated the tax — an extra $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value — would raise $818 million during the next four years, if voters extended again.
The school district said the tax money, as in years past, would help make up for shortfalls in state funding. When inflation is factored in, the school district received less per student this school year than it did in the 2007-08 year, according to the resolution the board adopted. The state also has limited how much the school district can levy in regular property taxes, the resolution said.
Though Florida provided additional money in recent years to boost starting pay for teachers, there has been little available for veteran teacher raises. OCPS and the local teachers union struggled for months to agree on a pay package, with raises for experienced teachers a key point of contention.
In early January, the school board, which first suggested $175 raises, agreed to $500 pay hikes, as well as one-time supplements. “Considering the inadequate funds from Tallahassee it certainly is a welcome improvement,” the union said at the time.
The money raised by the tax would help with compensating more experienced teachers and other school staff as well as “preserving academic programs, arts, athletics, and student activities,” the resolution said.