The Daytona Beach News-Journal | By Frank Fernandez | June 23, 2022
Flagler County voters will decide in November whether to extend a half-cent sales tax for schools another 10 years, which school officials said would continue to fund improvements in education and safety for students.
Flagler County commissioners approved by a 4 to 0 vote a request by the Flagler County School District to place the item on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved, the extension would start Jan. 1.
The sales tax would generate $8 million a year for 10 years or $80 million, said Flagler County School District Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt during the commission meeting. Of that, just over $5 million total over the 10 years would go to Imagine School Town Center, a charter school in Palm Coast.
The half-cent sales tax was first approved by voters in 2002 when it passed with nearly 70% approval, said district spokesman Jason Wheeler in an email. Then 64% of voters approved a 10-year extension on a primary ballot in 2012, he wrote. A simple majority of more than 50% is needed to approve the sales tax.
Flagler County Commission Chairman Joe Mullins said during the Monday meeting that the sales tax would also collect money from tourists, according to a webcast of the meeting.
“It’s a way to let guests that come to our county help cushion the cost and when we talk about the schools, we’re talking about our kids, so I’m asking everybody to keep an open ear to it,” Mullins said.
The district has used past sales-tax money to help provide K-8 students with iPads and high school students with MacBooks laptop computers for school work. The tablets and laptops are loaned to the students who return them at the end of the year.
“The tablets played a huge part in COVID,” Mullins said. “I saw it with my own daughter and my kids how much they used it. It seems like school stops when the tablets get turned in, so they are very crucial.”
County Commissioner Andy Dance, who previously served on the Flagler County School Board, said it was important for the half-cent sales tax to continue.
“I’ve witnessed so many students that have benefited over the last 10 years from the funds of the half-penny sales tax and this is crucial funding for the district in order for us to continue to be a top district in the state,” Dance said.
Commission Vice Chair Greg Hansen encouraged the school district to get the message out to voters.
“I think this is really important, really important that we get this done,” Hansen said.
“And I personally will help you if you need me to speak or go anywhere,” Hansen said. “I will do that. This is important, and we need to have this.”
Commissioner David Sullivan said “I love it when we let the voters decide on something like this. And I think that’s important for everybody to understand.”
Commissioner Donald O’Brien, who was not at the meeting, was on vacation Mullins said.
The school district has 12,437 students in VPK through 12th grade and Imagine School has 854 students, according toWheeler, the district spokesman.
The half-cent sales tax would fund a variety of improvements, including technology upgrades, equipment improvements, safety and security enhancements, school facility construction, land acquisition and procuring and maintaining school buses, according to the referendum which was read by School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker during the meeting.
Mittelstadt said in the past decade the half-cent sales tax was used in part to pay for technology so students could have devices they could take home to do their work on. Money also went toward improving safety and security at the schools, enhancing wireless networking and other needs.
Mittelstadt said safety would continue to be a priority in the next 10 years. The school system would continue to expand its sophisticated camera surveillance system which is tied in to the Sheriff’s Office, she said.