Community group calls for a ‘yes’ vote to raise property taxes, fund teacher raises and other needs

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Low salaries for seasoned teachers and more than 500 vacant teaching positions in Duval County public schools are just some of the reasons a community group is now pushing for Jacksonville to vote “yes” to increase tuition. property taxes. It’s an issue on the primary ballot in Duval County that should go to voters Aug. 23.

Landlord Latanya Maynard said she supports the tax hike as long as it goes to paying teachers.

“If property taxes need to be increased for this purpose, I’m okay with it,” Maynard said.

EXPLANATION : Where will my extra tax money go if Duval approves the teachers’ referendum?

On the other side, there are also those like Councilman Rory Diamond who said not now.

“It’s absolutely an insane time to raise taxes on Jacksonville homeowners,” Diamond said. “There’s skyrocketing inflation. We just doubled the gas tax and the school board frankly doesn’t need the money right now. Now is not the time to raise taxes on our families. .

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But a group of business leaders and citizens say now is the perfect time.

VOTER’S GUIDE | Referendum: Property tax for schools

They are members of Duval Citizens for Better Schools and include school board chairman Darryl Willie and a handful of veteran Duval County teachers like Mai Keisling. She has been teaching in Jacksonville for 30 years, but says she earns about the same as beginning teachers now.

“How come a brand new teacher comes in who still needs our help, that we earn the same salary as these young people who come in with no experience,” Keisling said.

If the homeownership rate hike is approved by voters, teachers would be paid more and those with experience could get a $5,000 bonus to keep them on the job.

Willie said that if approved, the new money would not go to the administrators.

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“You won’t see any high-paid administrators or cabinet-level officials and that’s written in the language of the ballot, teachers and staff as a very specific language that we put in that ballot,” Willie said. .

The school district projects the tax — which would cost homeowners an additional $100 a year for every $100,000 of their home’s accessible value — would bring in at least $81 million a year. The tax increase would automatically end after four years, unless renewed by another vote of the citizens of Duval County.

The district said 65% of the revenue would be used to supplement teachers’ salaries, 12.5% ​​would be used for arts and sports programs in public schools, 12.5% ​​would go to charter schools and 10% would go to raises. salary of district staff. .

The school board and school district said they needed the extra money because of teacher vacancies and couldn’t keep enough qualified teachers. This is a question that News4JAX posed to some of the veteran teachers like Claire Nackashi who has been teaching for 11 years.

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“It’s been tough,” she said, adding that she needed the job because of its health benefits. “My husband is self-employed, an artist, and works around Jacksonville a lot.”

Jameea Jackson has also been teaching for 11 years.

“We have been teaching for years and years. We also wear many different hats. So I’m part of the leadership and I mentor teachers. It’s kind of hard to have all these different jobs and still have the same salary as a newbie teacher coming in,” Jackson said.

It will be up to the voters to decide.

Mail-in voting is underway, early voting begins Monday and the election is less than three weeks away.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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