Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Tax Rate Hike Approved

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Tax Rate Hike Approved

Article excerpt

As increasing numbers of people move to Clay County, existing

schools must be enlarged and new schools must be built to keep

up with higher enrollment.

School Board members agreed with that conclusion last week. But

they didn't agree on how all the new construction should be

financed.

During a public hearing last week on a proposed $168.9 million

overall budget for 1997-98, board members voted 3-2 to boost

property taxes 4 percent to help fund much-needed school

improvements.

Chairman Richard Fain and board member Lisa Graham said a tax

hike is unnecessary because the county's share of state

education money has increased and growth will add an estimated

$168.9 million to the tax rolls in 1997-98.

"We need to hold within our budget and I'm sticking to that,"

said Fain.

Graham agreed, saying the school district "is in great shape,"

the Legislature is looking out for the county and the board has

been fiscally responsible.

Nonetheless, board members Mickey Fields, Carol Studdard and

Carol Vallencourt supported Superintendent David Owens and his

administrative staff, who recommended the tax increase.

"I studied long and hard on this," said Fields. "I don't

believe in raising taxes and I don't like big government. But I

now realize how bad a shape this county [school district] is

in."

He said he saw no alternative to increasing taxes as a way to

raise revenue to fund essential improvements, including more

classroom space and two new schools planned for Fleming Island.

Student enrollment in Clay County's 28 public schools stood at

25,584 in 1996-97, and is expected to rise to 27,116 in 1997-98,

27,864 the following year, and 28,393 in 1999-2000.

Studdard said she thought it was her duty to support the tax

increase "in the best interests of students" and quality

education throughout Clay County. …

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