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Sales tax proposal still on the table

By Staff | Mar 6, 2015

The Lee County School Board is still looking at a half cent sales tax to help generate money needed to pay for new schools and pay off part of the district’s debt.

“We have to be able to have a fundable source to build new schools,” School Board Member Steve Teuber said.

The conversations are being held because the school district has to build two new high schools and one middle school over the next three years to accommodate growth. The School District of Lee County also needs to pay down $42 million a year in debt services.

Although Tuesday’s decision by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners to restore impact fee rates on new construction to 45 percent of the levels charged two years ago, Teuber said the district still falls short of meeting the current need of generating $52 million a year to make ends meet.

He said with the 45 percent impact fee rate, the district will have an additional $3 million coming in every year, for which they are very grateful.

“Had we got the full 100 percent, we would probably (have) got almost $9 million,” he said.

The district not getting the additional $6 million that would have been generated from fully restoring impact fee rates is disappointing, but understandable, Teuber said.

“We totally understand and respect their opinion,” he said.

With the district less than half way to its revenue goal, they are looking at a half cent sales tax to generate more revenue for the schools.

“Sales tax is critical,” Teuber said.

Although discussion is still ongoing, he said they are going to possibly ask for four years of a half cent sales tax. That revenue would go towards new school construction for schools and debt retirement.

Right now, the school district is paying $42 million a year in debt service.

“We need to retire about half of that,” Teuber said, adding that $25 million would go towards new construction every year.

Without the half cent sales tax, he said students will be in double sessions.

“We will have children going in the first part of the day, or the second part of the day,” Teuber said. “The classes will be modified and we will be doubling schools.”

He said the double sessions would leave students either going to an A block schedule or a B block schedule.

“It’s a very negative impact on education and kids,” Teuber said. “But we don’t have a choice because we don’t have enough seats.”

Over the next several months, he said he is going to sit down and really look at how the district is spending its money. Teuber wants to make sure the district is as trim as it possibly can be.

“We have to make sure everything is in order in our own backyard,” he said. “That is going to happen here in the next month or two.”