Have Manatee Voters Worsened on Public School Funding? Tuesday’s tax vote will tell history

School boards across the state and nation have faced hordes of angry critics, slamming policies on COVID-19 protocols and other issues. But are voters as a whole ready to fund schools? A test could take place on Tuesday when voters in Manatee County, a location Donald trump won with more than 57% of the votes, decides whether to renew a property tax supporting public schools.

Manatee County voters in 2018 first passed the $ 1million tax, but by a very small margin with 51.39% in favor of the tax. It was a margin of 1,564 votes out of 56,370 cast. So, can he survive in the current political climate?

President of the school board Charlie kennedy thinks.

“There is bipartisan support for children and for an educated population,” he said. “Whether people have children in school or not, you want young people to be educated as best you can. “

The 2020-2021 fiscal year tax generated $ 47 million, the bulk of which goes to teacher salaries with a significant portion going to science, technology, engineering, and math education. In the event of renewal, a part will be reserved for the arts.

But opposition groups are campaigning loudly this year against the renewal. The Manatee County Republican Party passed a resolution formally opposed to renewal. He notes that the tax has outperformed and was supposed to bring in just $ 33 million a year, but school district leaders still want to charge homeowners a high price.

And amid COVID-19 angst, conservative parent groups have mobilized more aggressively this year.

Steve vernon, president of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club, hopes voters will nix the tax on Tuesday, and the weight of the decision will be felt statewide.

“I know the people, mainly the moms there, have never been so active politically and now they are,” he said. “They realize that the bureaucrats are taking over and not wanting to hear what parents have to say. “

Vernon isn’t the only prominent Republican hoping the tax will drop. Sheriff Rick wells told the Manatee Patriots group earlier this month “I’m not voting for this.” He also said the district broke the promises it made about how the money would be spent, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

County commissioner Vanessa Baugh posted a video on Facebook making it clear that she also opposed the tax.

“I am voting no on this measure,” she said. “I have the impression that we have to live within our means, and as you saw from the council of county commissioners, we gave a small decrease in our mileage. We are not asking for more money.

As for the Manatee Patriots, the group has dispatched door to door campaigning against the tax.

But just as the Conservatives are rallying against the tax, the local Democratic Party has put its ability to get the vote to profit for renewal.

Tracy pratt, chairman of the Democratic Manatee Party, said there was strong support to support teacher salaries, the rationale for the tax four years ago and today.

“It’s not a tax increase,” she noted. “This is the renewal of a tax that already existed and has provided significant benefits to our schools and teachers.

And Democrats have worked with unlikely allies. Builder Pat neal, a major Republican donor who featured several speakers at a Florida TaxWatch event last week, supports the school tax.

“When I build and sell a house in Sarasota County, it’s a big part of the good schools,” said Neal, whose Neal Communities company is based in Lakewood Ranch. “For me and for anyone interested in economic advancement in Manatee County, I know you need good schools in Manatee County. Good teachers go to good schools with good salaries.

Kennedy suspects that there are a lot of Republicans and Independents who feel the same way as Neal, although most are not as loud. While the tax was first passed, the district has since successfully increased teacher salaries and performance in a statewide school grading system.

And he said the money is needed. While Vernon and others criticized tying teachers’ salaries to a tax that must be renewed by voters every four years or less, Kennedy said there aren’t many other programs. which could be reduced if the tax ceased to exist.

“If you dive into school finances, you see that 70% of our budget is already spent on salaries and benefits,” he said. “To just say finding an additional $ 40 million over your current $ 500 million operating budget, it’s just not there.”

Meanwhile, the county sits next to the Pinellas and Sarasota school districts, which offer high salaries and have maintained similar property taxes for 18 and 20 years, respectively. Before the tax, district officials complained that good teachers would start their careers in Manatee, but quickly walk through University Parkway or Sunshine Skyway to find better paying jobs.

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