EDITORIAL: Vote “Yes” on School Property Tax Referendum

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EDITORIAL: Vote “Yes” on School Property Tax Referendum

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Election Day, November 6th, is tomorrow, and many issues that have accumulated since the last election cycle are now ready to be voted upon.  

A major issue that will be voted on is a school referendum influenced by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.  The tragic mass shooting on February 14th, 2018, is one that will continue to highlight the necessity of upgrading school security and hiring mental health professionals.

In order to bolster school security and provide better resources for students dealing with mental health issues, more money is required, which would require a tax hike.  This referendum is proposing to raise property taxes to address the growing needs of Palm Beach County schools.

It is important to note that the referendum is actually a renewal of a special tax that has been in place for decades. This tax, however, has to be re-approved every four years. The referendum, if approved, would increase this tax from an additional $25 per $100,000 paid in property taxes to $100 per every $100,000.

If the referendum fails to pass, the existing special tax rate would become null-and-void, meaning that millions of dollars the school district has been collecting for decades will be lost.

With the average assessed property value for a home in Boca Raton being just over $300,000, according to Zillow.com, the referendum would mean an increase of an additional $225 paid in property tax for that average-assessed home.

It is important to note that due to Florida’s decreasing tax rates, Florida has fallen from number 36 to 44 among the 50 states in K-12 per student education funding, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, Florida’s total K-12 education spending is 32 percent lower than the national average. The School District of Palm Beach County alone has realized a decrease of $180 million in operating revenue.

It is equally important to point out that if the referendum fails, the elimination of the special tax could mean the loss of up to 650 teachers of art, music, physical education, health, and Choice and Career Education teachers.

Keeping those courses and their teachers in place is reason enough for a “yes” vote on the referendum-even if it means paying an extra $75 per $100,000. The programs that a “yes” vote will keep in place are vital to a complete, well-rounded education.

Along with keeping those necessary programs in place, the school district is promising that the added property tax will allow for more school police and safety equipment and additional mental health professionals, school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists.

Additionally, the increased revenue will allow the school district to increase teacher pay from $1,000 to $10,000 (based on years experience) a year for the next four years. Currently, Florida ranks number 42 of the 50 states in teacher salaries with the average Florida teacher salary being close to $10,000 a year less than the national average. It’s no wonder that Florida struggles with teacher retention.

And to aleve the valid concern over how the increased revenue will be spent, all expenditures coming from the property tax increase will be monitored by an independent oversight committee made up of “citizens and experts,” according to the school district’s website.

The voters in Broward County already approved a similar referendum during the August 28 primary election by an overwhelming majority. Broward was one of the ten Florida counties to pass such a referendum on August 28. The Torch urges Palm Beach County voters to follow suit and do right by its public school students. The alternative will have a devastating effect on Palm Beach County schools.

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