Local officials are considering several ways to raise money for Alachua County Public Schools facilities.
The Gainesville City Commission, Alachua County Commission and the Alachua County School Board met Wednesday and discussed two initiatives voters may see on the ballot in November, said Jackie Johnson, spokesperson for ACPS. The first is a half-cent sales tax and the other is the formation of a children’s services council.
“There are a lot of needs that we have in this district that we haven’t been able to meet with the money that we’ve had available,” she said.
Due to their age, many ACPS facilities require renovation, Johnson said. A majority of the roofs are past their lifespan, air conditioning systems need updating, and classrooms need remodeling. The school board would also like to build more modern spaces that can accommodate more students, she said.
The half-cent sales tax is sponsored by the school board, and would cost the average household about $60 a year while it’s in place for the next 12 years, Johnson said. The tax would raise about $20 million annually.
“That would go a long way toward improving our facilities district-wide,” she said, “and that’s something that would touch every single school in a very significant way.”
Johnson said the half-cent sales tax would also bring the county up to what surrounding counties already pay. Currently, Alachua County has a 6.5 percent sales tax while the surrounding counties have a 7 percent sales tax, she said.
The other initiative voters may see on the ballot in November is a referendum to create a children’s services council, which would operate as an independent authority and spend about $7 million annually on children’s programs for all ages, said Tom Tonkavich, assistant director of Alachua County Community Support Services.
“Nobody could take that funding and use it to build a new park or something like that,” he said. “It would have to be dedicated for children’s programs.”
At the meeting, it was announced this was the first time in a decade the board and commissions had met, Claudia Tuck, the director of Alachua County Community Support Services, wrote in a text.
Some parents, like Magali Jorand-Fletcher, have noticed the age of some schools is beginning to show. Fletcher’s two daughters attend Stephen Foster Elementary School, located at 3800 NW 6th St. The technology is outdated and portables need updating, she said.
“There’s quite a few areas in that school that need to be definitely upgraded,” she said.
Jorand-Fletcher said she would support the half-cent sales tax if it appears on the ballot. She said anybody who visits Alachua County schools would understand the need for more funding.
“I think the half-cent tax would be really helpful to help bring Alachua County schools back up to what they should be,” she said.