A sales tax referendum requested by the Lee County School Board will go onto the general ballot in November, after Lee County Commissioners signed off on the measure during their meeting Tuesday.
The school board initially requested that the vote take place during a special election in May due to concerns that the issue would get buried during a general election. During a special session on Monday, board members voted to move the requested date to the general election after public backlash over the additional expense of a special election which would have cost the district over $880,000.
County commissioners had also expressed reservations on holding a special election for the referendum and there was a chance that the board may not have approved the May date if it had remained unchanged. The county is required to place the requested referendum on the ballot, but they are not required to do so as a special election.
Superintendent Gregory Adkins told the commission that he and the school board had moved the requested date of the election because they had listened to the community’s concerns about timing and cost. In addition to community pressure, the board was also facing the possibility that pending state legislation might force the vote to the November ballot regardless. Adkins said that the district has implemented cost saving measures and looked for other sources of revenue, but without the sales tax the board would be forced to borrow the $478 million that it will be short for infrastructure projects over the next five years.
“For the past 10 years the district’s Capital revenue has decreased over $200 million per year,” Adkins said. “Over the same period of time our student growth population over the last decade has increased by 22,000 kids and currently growing at a rate of about 1,800 students a year, roughly the equivalent of a high school. The result is an immediate need for schools and insufficient funds to build them.”
If implemented, the sales tax would run for 10 years, from 2019 to 2028, and is expected to raise about $55 to $58 million annually.
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