• Clay County half cent sales tax: Judge expected to rule on resolution Friday

    By: Brittney Donovan , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Families in Clay County could find out next week if they'll be able to vote on the half cent sales tax for aging schools this year.

    The decision is now in a judge's hands after attorneys for the school board and board of commissioners made their case in court Friday morning.

    In June, the school board passed a resolution to let voters decide on the sales tax in a November 2019 special election.

    The board of commissioners sent that proposal back to the school board, saying it needed more work.

    That led the school board to file a lawsuit against the commission, saying it was their job to put the resolution on the ballot for voters.

    "We must do something to repair and renovate our schools," said Carol Studdard, school board chairwoman. "We just pray that no air conditioners break this week."


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    Studdard said the half cent sales tax is needed for maintenance and repairs at schools, but it's also needed to build new schools as the county grows. 

    "That's a big decision. That's over $400 million in taxes over 30 years and I think as many people as possible should be able to vote on it," said Mike Cella, Clay County Commission chairman.

    Cella said a special election in 2019 could mean low voter turnout.

    He said waiting until 2020 would give the board more time to educate the public, and it could save the district money.

    "The bottom line is, they can run it for next year in November and not have to pay," he said. "If you hold it on a one-day special election in November or December, when people are already involved in holiday and vacations, you're going to get a very low turnout, and we don't think that's right."

    Clay County grandmother Mary Holtcamp said she agrees with waiting. "There are too many unanswered questions to the public," she said. "The public has a right to know exactly what they're voting for."

    Clay County school board members say the maintenance and repairs can't wait.

    Clay County mom Amanda Loyd has three kids in Clay County schools.

    She said her children's futures depend on acting now.

    "If it would get them better in their grades to where they could do better and learn more and improve themselves, I'd say do it," Loyd said.

    Attorneys for both sides have until Tuesday to submit their proposed orders, and the judge is expected to make a decision by Friday.

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