JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County School Board is asking voters to decide whether or not to approve a 1 mill property tax increase. The money is expected to be used to increase pay for Duval County teachers.
A millage rate, or mill for short, is the amount of property tax charged per $1,000 of taxable property value.
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“Our teachers are being directly recruited by corporate America,” Tracy Pierce said. He is a spokesperson for the Duval County Public School District, and believes this could help in recruiting and retaining teachers.
Right now, Pierce said the district is short about 400 teachers.
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“There’s been a teacher shortage in the nation for years, but the pandemic really exasperated that shortage,” Pierce said.
If approved, the 1 mill property tax would cost homeowners an extra $100 per year for each $100,000 of assessed value on their house. The tax would go away after four years, unless it’s renewed by another vote.
“A $300,000 house, kind of the average in Jacksonville, after all the exemptions are taken into account, the average taxpayer would pay about $23 a month,” Pierce said, giving an example of the possible increase.
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If the referendum gets passed, salary for current educators would go up by at least $5,000, according to Duval County Public Schools. It would also increase for new teachers. The pay increase would not apply to school board members or the superintendent.
“Teacher compensation is a big factor in retaining and recruiting teachers,” Amy Henderson said. She works with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), a group established in 2009. It works to close the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color by investing in leadership in public schools, according to JPEF’s website.
Henderson said a recent survey conducted by JPEF found that 40% of teachers in Duval said compensation was the biggest obstacle in teaching.
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“By passing this referendum, we’re investing in our teachers,” Henderson said. “We’re investing in the students.”
Some say it’s not the time for a tax increase with inflation at an all-time high. City Council members Aaron Bowman, Rory Diamond, Al Ferraro, Randy White, and Nick Howland all voted “no” on the issue during an April city council meeting.
The issue is now in the hands of voters after passing council with a 14 to 5 vote.
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