Penny tax increase on Nov. ballot


Staff report
It may not have the interest of Clinton vs. Trump but for parents, cities and county officials a referendum on the November ballot is of great importance.
Voters will be asked to decide on whether to increase the sales tax one penny to fund school renovations, county facility upgrades and city projects over the next 10 years.
If approved, county schools will receive 50 percent of the money raised by the penny tax, county government will receive 30 percent and cities 20 percent of the proceeds. The goal is to raise $2.7 billion to pay for deferred projects and new projects. The tax will end in December 2026 or before then if the $2.7 billion figure is raised.
The District estimates it needs more than $1.4 billion in projects related to deferred building maintenance as a result of the Great Recession and state cuts, IT improvements, security upgrades and replacing school bus and “support” vehicles.
Of that, more than $1.1 billion is earmarked to correct years of deferred maintenance on schools and provide security improvements.
Approximately $133.8 million will be used for classroom technology upgrades and nearly $103 million will be allocated for new school buses, maintenance and police vehicles.
The District has two budgets – an operating budget for employee salaries, supplies and other operational needs, and a capital budget that pays for building construction, repairs and maintenance, as well as major purchases such as technology and vehicles such as school buses.
The District’s current capital budget is not sufficient to cover these projects, district officials say. Due to budget cuts enacted by the Legislature in 2008, capital budgets for all school districts have been drastically reduced. Capital revenues for the School District of Palm Beach County have been reduced by $865 million since 2008.
Some older schools in Delray Beach and Boca Raton will benefit if the penny tax passes. (see list in accompanying table). But all schools will benefit from the technology and security upgrades.
An independent committee will review all School District of Palm Beach County projects andbudgets to protect taxpayers’ investment. A similar oversight committee was established in 2004, during a previous sales tax collected by the District for school construction. That committee, which included 9 members representing key sectors of Palm Beach County, ensured projects were delivered on time and within budget.
Some of the projects earmarked for the county and cities include signalization upgrades at Atlantic and Military Trail, improvements to Delray Beach Fire Station #5 near Linton Boulevard, $6 million for the redevelopment of the South County Governmental Complex on Congress Avenue, $500,000 for a drainage project on Congress north of Linton Boulevard, playground replacement at Lake Ida Park, $470,000 for Pompey Park, money for bridge modifications on Barwick Road and Clint Moore Road, a $700,000 resurfacing of Glades Road to Yamato, $275,000 to restripe Palmetto Park Road and $1.2 million to resurface Old Dixie Highway from the South County line to Spanish River Boulevard among other projects.
If approved the surtax would begin January 1, 2017 and automatically end on or before December 31, 2026, with independent oversight by citizen committees.
Opponents of the tax say cities, counties and school districts should be able to budget for their needs within their capital plans. Supporters say the state legislature and the 2008 financial meltdown have created a scenario where they can’t catch up and that a sales tax allows for visitors not just property owners to pay for their needs.