JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Parents, teachers and community members filled the Jacksonville City Council Chambers to share one message: the time is now to pass the Duval County School Board’s resolution for a half-cent sales tax.
The half-cent sales tax would repair and replace some of, what are considered to be, the oldest school buildings in the state.
Action News Jax's Courtney Cole went to the meeting, where she says 68 people signed up for the opportunity to speak to city leaders.
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Many waited at least three hours before they could share the reasons they’re urging City Council to vote to put this measure on a ballot this November.
Cole says City Council members considered cutting down how much time each person had to speak, but ultimately each person was given their full three minutes.
"Why not give those children an opportunity to take their tests in air conditioned classrooms? Why not give our custodians, our teachers, or social workers—an opportunity to work in classrooms where it's comfortable? –Where the roof isn't leaking, where the air conditioning isn't going out? Where the carpet isn't being flooded by the rain, why not?” asked Tiffany Clark.
Clark says a half-cent sales tax represents an opportunity to make all of our public schools in Duval County a place that encourages the learning process.
One community member asked Jax City Council Members, “Why aren’t City Council Members & @DuvalSchools School board members working hand-in-hand? [on half-cent sales tax]” —He went on to say nothing the school board is saying or asking for should come as a surprise @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/15uvYZfCRN— Courtney Cole (@CourtneyANJax) June 12, 2019
“Do we want our children that we're now raising up and training to be our next leaders—to have children that are sitting in classrooms with no A/C? Do we want our children's children to go through the same thing we're going through now?” Clark questioned.
Clark is a parent of two students in Duval County Public Schools.
She told Cole he son just graduated from First Coast High School a couple of weeks ago. He daughter attends Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.
"As a parent, I don't just represent my children. I represent the City of Jacksonville. I represent other parents, I represent other students that attend schools with my children,” said Clark.
Clark told Cole she supports the half-cent sales tax proposed by Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Diana Greene.
Cole also spoke to a DCPS school teacher.
Her name is Rachel Duff and she’s been teaching at Alfred I. Dupont Middle School for 5 years.
"It's critical that this November, in 2019, we have this on the ballot for voters because when you're thinking about buildings that are critical to our city, what is more important than schools?" Duff asked.
Duff says she feels fortunate to work in a nice facility, but she came out to City Hall on Tuesday night to speak on behalf of the others— who don't share the same experience.
"The air condition is an issue across the district. If we could have better units and better resources for technology, for professional development rooms, for furniture,” Duff explained.
Right now, Duval County Public Schools has a $243 million dollar maintenance backlog.
Duff says the half-cent sales tax is the opportunity to make the learning environment better for the students and staff.
"This is where they're coming everyday, Monday-Friday, a lot of times Saturday, for Saturday school.”
"It's also critical for teaching professionals, for educators—that their daily workplace, where they oftentimes spend more hours than they do in their own homes—is a place where they feel comfortable, where they feel safe,” Duff said.
#RIGHTNOW I’m inside City Council Chambers where community members will have the chance to voice their opinions & concerns about the half-cent sales tax proposed by @DuvalSchools —@ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/f7k3AKg4WJ— Courtney Cole (@CourtneyANJax) June 11, 2019
Duff said not passing the proposal for the half-cent sales tax only sends one message to the community.
“Education is not prioritized when it comes to budget, when it comes to fund allocation, whatever it comes to, that we're not top of the list,” said Duff.
If the City Council approves adding the question to the ballot in a special election in November— it would start in January 2020. It would be in place for 15 years and generate $1.3 billion dollars.
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It gets a little sticky though, because Mayor Lenny Curry is not in favor of spending a million dollars for a special election this November.
Right now, we’re working to figure out if the council members support the idea to put the half-cent sales tax on the ballot.
“We have to give the voters an opportunity to choose,” said Clark.
The Finance and Rules Committee will meet to talk about the half-cent sales tax on Tuesday June 18th and then the full council is set to meet on Tuesday, June 25th to discuss it.
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