Half a Penny for a Whole Lot of Change


Cydney Socias

Blake High Supports the Referendum. Do you?

           The future of Hillsborough County schools hangs in the balance. It’s apparent Blake is underfunded. Recently, the inadequacy of the air conditioning has been the punchline of many jokes. Yet this is not a problem unique to Blake. In fact, Hillsborough County School district would have to spend over 1 billion dollars in maintenance to make all necessary repairs.

           However, the school district doesn’t have this money. The future of our school lies in the hands of voters.  And we need a “Yes” vote on Hillsborough County Referendum No. 3- not only for the sake of our school but for the sake of the entire school district.

            There’s nothing simple about the Referendum. The name alone- “Referendum on One-Half Cent Sales Surtax for Public School Air Conditioning and Capital Improvements” is already a mouthful. In short, the referendum calls for a half penny increase on sales tax. Understandably, many people are confused. Upon first hearing about it, voters wonder why do they have to be taxed in order for schools to be properly funded. The answer lies within the way the school district’s budget is provided.

            Our school district has two different “buckets” of funds. The first is called the Operating Budget. This is the primary source of funding for the district and comes entirely from the state. However, this money does not cover any school maintenance charges whatsoever. That means that Florida doesn’t put money towards A/C repairs, building, and renovation, or maintenance. Coincidentally- these are the things that our schools need the most right now. Things like this come from what’s called the Capital Budget. This budget is significantly smaller than the Operating Budget, largely due to the fact that it is funded primarily by a portion of the sales tax- a microscopic 1/8th of a penny to be exact.


           With such a minuscule amount of funding- it’s no wonder why schools across the district are in such disrepair. Shockingly, Hillsborough County School District is the largest school district in the area but receives the least amount of funding. A similar district,  Pasco County has implemented a 45% of a penny sales tax. They have 84 schools. Hillsborough County has a whopping 250 schools. Pasco has three times less the amount of schools, yet their tax is four times bigger. The numbers don’t lie. Hillsborough County needs a budget that can actually support its schools. 

            Noah Turrell, 11th grade, is known around campus for being politically active. He feels that “if it’s for schools, it could be justified.”

            Overall, the tax will benefit a large variety of things schools need. It’ll be used on A/C, renovations, maintenance, security increases, and advanced technology. Each school will be receiving a minimum of ½ million dollars’ worth of investments. The funding is need-based, so there’s no need to worry about political bias. In fact, there will even be a citizen oversight committee to ensure that everything goes smoothly and fairly. 

            Blake needs a positive vote on the referendum. In just the first five years of the referendum’s plan, the district will fund an air conditioning replacement; elevator modernization; a replaced roof; replaced fire alarm; an upgraded classroom network infrastructure; and much more in Blake alone. Within years 6-10, Blake can expect a flooring replacement project as well.

            And if the vote is against the referendum?

            Things could get even worse for students. The county would have to borrow even more money, pushing it deeper and deeper into debt. Somehow, this money would have to be repaid. It could be catastrophic for Hillsborough County schools. How many more hits can the district take?