Duval’s half-cent sales tax brings in $110 million in first year, but public awareness needs improvement

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The committee overseeing the Duval County half-cent sales tax for school improvement said in its first annual report it is already ahead of schedule for how much revenue has been collected.

According to the report, the county’s half-cent sales tax generated more than $110 million in 2021, the first year the tax has been in effect since it was approved by voters to help fix and replacing aging schools. That’s well ahead of the $88 million projection for last year.

The money is specifically earmarked for new school construction, pending maintenance projects and security upgrades – with each school’s to-do list set out in a online dashboard.

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According to the latest update, 48 different projects are currently being tendered – 46 are in the design phase, one is under construction and four are complete.

Even projects that haven’t started yet already have designated sales tax revenue.

North Shore Elementary is expected to receive more than $4.6 million in sales tax for deferred maintenance work. And nearly $29 million in sales tax revenue is going to Rutledge Pearson Elementary to tear down the school and replace it.

The committee’s report also highlighted an ongoing challenge – public frustration, confusion and lack of awareness.

“A lot of times when information is out there, people tend to assume, and so I think, again, educating the community on the progress of the project helps with that,” said Hank Rogers, president of Duval County Half-Cent. Sales Tax Oversight. Committee.

This is particularly an issue as the Duval County School Board has begun considering a property tax increase to help retrain experienced teachers as the district faces more than 400 teaching vacancies as well as the arts and athletics funding.

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The sentiments shine through in comments from News4JAX insiders.

“The half-cent sales tax should be used to create shops to teach trades,” wrote an Insider with the username “Jax Beach.”

Another insider with the username “Don Todd” wrote, “The governing bodies of this nation don’t care about its citizens paying taxes, their motto is pay, shut up and don’t ask. Questions.”

The committee therefore recommended that public schools in Duval County make a greater effort to let the community know how tax revenues are used, perhaps even posting signs outside schools where maintenance or construction is underway.

“I think what’s going to really appeal to the public is when they start to see shovels in the ground and see new schools and new buildings coming up,” Rogers said. “I think people are really going to start seeing the progress and working on their workplace taxes.”

Another recommendation was to create a separate online dashboard to specifically display information about charter schools and their share of that tax revenue. By law, charter schools receive a share of school tax revenue in Duval County.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All Rights Reserved.

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