County voters adopt one-mill school tax

These signs outside the polling place in Anna Maria represented both sides of the school tax debate. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

MANATEE COUNTY – By a slim margin, Manatee County voters passed the proposed one-mill school tax in the county election that concluded this evening.

As a result, Manatee County property owners, for the next four years, will pay an additional $1 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable property value.

The unofficial margin was 28,949 votes (51.4 percent) in favor of the new tax and 27,392 (48.6 percent) opposed to the new tax. Of the county’s 235,388 registered voters, 56,450 cast votes. This equates to 24 percent voter turnout.

Manatee County School District officials estimate the additional tax will generate $33 million a year in additional tax revenues for the district. School district officials say the additional revenues will be used for pay raises that will help attract and retain teachers and support staff, and help prevent them from leaving to take jobs in neighboring Sarasota County, where teacher salaries are higher. The additional revenues will also allow for a longer school day for students, which school officials and supporters say will improve academic achievement.

Opponents of the tax questioned the school board’s management of its existing tax revenues, and claimed additional tax would hurt blue-collar workers, single parents and seniors without improving academic performance.

The new tax is subject to voter renewal after four years.

Sarasota County voters renewed their school tax for another four years by a comfortable 78.6 to 21.3 percent margin.