Letter to the Editor,
This letter is intended to clarify recent statements made about school board taxes. To begin, the 1.5 mil capital operating millage is not a new tax, and has been in place for many years, and was as high as 1.75 mils at one point in time. The purpose of the tax is to provide school districts with funds for renovation, repair, and maintenance of school board owned facilities, and asset-related expenditures; expenditures that are restricted by statute.
The charter agreement, drafted by the Florida Department of Education, between Somerset and the Jefferson County School Board, Section 4(2), directs 100 percent of the capital outlay tax receipts (this year estimated at $983,060), to be paid to Somerset. For Fiscal Years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the District paid Somerset just under 2 million dollars from capital outlay revenue. The contractual obligation leaves the District without the financial ability to provide maintenance and renovation to any of the board-owned properties or equipment, outside of those which are leased to Somerset.
Without any funding for repairs or renovations, such as the needed renovations for the auditorium, the District must seek out grants or find other funding sources.
Posted on the District website are the charter agreement and prior-year School Board budgets that reflect capital outlay revenue and payments to Somerset. The proposed FY2019-2020 Budget, published in the July 26, 2019 edition of the Jefferson Journal, shows once again, the 1.5 mil revenue and expected payment to Somerset in full. Also published in the same edition was the Notice of Tax for School Capital Outlay that details the allowable use of these funds.
As a staunch supporter of community engagement, I welcome stakeholder oversight of school governance, and extend an invitation to all interested community members to contact my office, or attend the Final Tax Hearing on September 9, 2019 beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Marianne Arbulu, Superintendent