Members of the Hernando County School Board (HCSB) voted unanimously in favor of an amended ballot referendum continuing the one-half-cent sales tax currently levied by HCSD. The resolution supporting the referendum will be submitted to the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners, who will need to provide final approval for the referendum to appear on the November 2024 ballot.
Mark Johnson pulled the resolution for review, saying, “I’m in favor of this. I pulled it because I don’t think it’s specific enough to be terrific.” Johnson added that this initiative will not be the only tax referendum voters will decide on in November.
Johnson said he wants to see specific percentages allocated to each category listed. Ritesh Patel of Nabors, Giblin, and Nickerson, legal consultants to local governments, explained that the resolution was drafted under statutory requirements. “This language encompasses everything you can do under the statute, [it] provides you maximum flexibility.” Patel added that typically when a resolution is adopted, a marketing campaign follows to garner public support, which usually includes an intended project list. “That’s the place you’re best served making sure you advertise that these [dollars] are going to be used for new schools.”
Patel recommended that percentage allotments not be included in the referendum. “I think it would just lock you in a box and provide you less flexibility than you probably want.” He also mentioned that a policy decision was made by HCSD in 2015 that did not allow surtax dollars to be applied to new construction. “You locked yourself into a box saying you weren’t going to build new schools.”
According to data presented in a workshop held on May 30, 2023, new school construction may be a necessary consideration. During that workshop, numbers showed that the school district is faced with the construction of an additional 12,000 dwelling units over the next ten years, equating to 7,800 students entering the school system. The total number of students, which is currently around 24,000, is expected to rise to an estimated 32,000.
The approved amended language specifies the construction of new schools and that the current Citizen’s Oversight Committee will continue monitoring expenditures for the lifetime of the surtax. The rest of the original resolution remains unchanged.
The resolution approved during this meeting, which will be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners, states, “Shall the one-half-cent sales surtax currently levied in Hernando County be renewed for ten years, to be used for new construction, reconstruction, renovation, remodeling or improvement of school facilities including safety and security improvements, and the purchase of technology equipment including hardware and software with the continued review of expenditures by a citizen’s oversight committee?”
The original proposed resolution for 2024 did not specify new construction or that the Citizen’s Oversight Committee would continue to monitor expenditures: “Shall the one-half cent sales surtax currently levied in Hernando county be renewed for ten (10) years to be used for the construction, reconstruction, renovation, remodeling, or improvement of school facilities, including safety and security Improvements, and the purchase of Technology equipment, including hardware and software with expenditures reviewed by a Citizens’ Oversight Committee?”