As a new member of the Washington County School Board, I was surprised to learn some critical information that impacts the Washington County School District. The district’s school millage rate has decreased from 5.483 in 2011-2012 to 4.415 in 2017-2018. During the same time period that the millage rate decreased by approximately 1 mill, Washington County property values on which the millage rate is applied dropped from approximately 924 million to 917 million. The decrease in both of these measures resulted in a significant drop in our locally generated funds. This drop in funds is one of the reasons I am supporting the half cent sales tax that will appear on the August 28th ballot. While only a portion of Washington County residents currently pay ad valorem taxes, the half cent sales tax would be a “fair” tax that would allow all consumers who buy products, other than food or medicine, to contribute to the education of our students. Many of the consumers who will pay this tax will be non-county residents who are buying gas, shopping in stores, eating at restaurants, and staying in the motels on I – 10. While no one wants to pay additional taxes, the half cent sales tax will only cost the consumer an additional 5 dollars out of every 1000 dollars spent. Additionally, the tax is only assessed for purchases up to 5000 dollars. The most a buyer would pay on a single purchase over 5000 dollars would be 25 dollars. All the money raised will stay in Washington County. Florida law specifies that this money can only be used for technology and construction and/or renovation of instructional facilities. Although Washington County is fortunate to have comfortable and updated school facilities, without the additional revenue from this sales tax, it will be impossible to maintain these facilities in their current state or renovate these facilities to meet the changing instructional needs of our students. Our district will be unable to improve the technology infrastructure, to adequately update classrooms with current instructional technology, to provide new job training courses in a timely manner, or to provide additional safety measures that secure our campus facilities. A child has only one opportunity to learn the building blocks that will define his/her educational achievement. It is imperative for each grade level to have the appropriate curriculum and the technology to support that curriculum. Our high schools and technical college must have the financial resources to provide the academic preparation and job training for today’s jobs as well as jobs that will be emerging in the future. Your “yes” vote on the half cent sales tax will be a positive step in ensuring that Washington County students attend schools that prepare them to enter the workplace and/or successfully complete higher education programs.
School Board Member, District 2