March 1, 2022 — The Duval County School Board today passed a resolution to ask voters on Aug. 23 to approve a 1-mill increase in property taxes, mostly to give teachers and staff competitive pay and to improve arts and athletics programs for students.
The resolution now goes to the Jacksonville City Council, which has the role of formally placing it on the ballot.
“There’s never a good time, but this is the right time,” Board Chairman Darryl Willie said in wrapping up a long discussion. “We are simply giving the community the opportunity to vote. We have to honor our experienced teachers and do whatever we can to retain them.”
At the board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene presented facts and rationale for the additional revenue, mostly focused on the national and local teacher shortage. She reported that the district’s vacancy rate hovers around 400 classroom teaching positions, leaving many classrooms with substitutes, administrators, or teachers forced to double-up in responsibilities. That, along with the stress of the past two years with the pandemic and remote learning, has placed teachers and staff under more pressure than usual.
She pointed out that 20 Florida districts have passed similar measures. According to the state Department of Education, Duval County ranks 40th out of 69 districts in Florida for average teacher salary and ranks last out of the seven largest urban districts. The hourly wage for paraprofessionals ($15) ranks below cashiers and warehouse workers in the region.
Dr. Greene recommended that funds from the 1 mill also be used to enhance art, music, and athletic programs. She further explained that under state law, public charter schools would receive a proportionate share of funds raised through the 1 mill tax, based upon enrollment.
It is estimated that the 1 mill will generate about $82 million a year for the district and cost the homeowner of a $225,000 home about $17 a month after the homestead exemption is applied. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of home value.
The half-penny sales tax that was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2020 can only be used for facility maintenance, repairs, and renovation. The money raised for the proposed property tax can be used for operations, which includes teacher and staff compensation and educational programs like arts, music, and athletics. Dr. Greene emphasized that all of the funding raised by the 1 mill would stay in Duval County and not be shared with state or federal governments.
The entire resolution and answers to frequently asked questions are now available at www.duvalschools.org/vote.