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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Ocala resident has ‘major concerns’ regarding school tax referendum

To the Editor:

Should the special one-mill property tax for schools be approved in November for the third time? This will be 12 years of increased taxpayer support at the end of the proposed four-year extension.

I was an enthusiastic supporter of the first referendum (2014) and a moderate supporter of the second one (2018). However, I am having major concerns about this third one.

Since the first referendum, school district spending has increased by 89% to nearly a billion dollars, and enrollment is up by just 4.4%. Disappointingly, our district’s academic rating among Florida districts is still where it was eight years ago. We are in the bottom 15% of Florida school districts. This is unacceptable performance and use of our tax dollars.

Is it time for our school board to apply those words frequently used in budgeting: reallocation of expenses? I hear many teachers complaining about the growth in administration and other expenses not directly related to improving students’ academic performance.

The Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership, along with the school district, have their pro-tax supporters out trying to appeal to our heart by telling us that not approving the referendum will hurt the students. Frankly, continuing to approve it is even more hurtful to students, by not effectively applying the extra tax dollars to improve the quality of education they have received over the past eight years.

So, what do you think? Is it time for the school board to take a one- to two-year hiatus from continuing to increase our property tax and see what they can do to better operate within a more disciplined budget? Voting ‘no’ on the referendum will force the school board to do the job we elected it to do.

Stan Hanson
Ocala resident