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In a Shift, Andy Dance Joins Unanimous Vote for School Tax Referendum in November

| August 3, 2010

andy dance flagler county schools

Andy Dance now wants the school board to make a strong case for the school tax he previously opposed. (FlaglerLive)

“Our best economic development is by having a financially stable school district,” Andy Dance said.  “It’s important that we go out as a unified vote.” With those words, the school board member completed a spring-to-summer journey that took him from opposing a proposed school levy that would raise about $2 million next year, to approving it almost wholeheartedly. The Flagler County School Board voted unanimously to place the levy proposal on the November 2 ballot.

Board member Trevor Tucker, who was undecided when the board revisited the issue last week, convincingly joined the majority, too.

Dance had opposed the school levy principally because he thought its timing was not right, and because he feared (correctly) that it would clash with another levy on the November ballot—a  new  tax proposal ostensibly designed to spur economic development by  using tax dollars to finance commercial buildings that would be occupied by private industry. That tax was officially put forth by Enterprise Flagler, the private-public economic development partnership largely controlled by the chamber. But the tax proposal gets its momentum from the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, where Dance, as a chamber board member, was part of the chamber’s unanimous vote endorsing it.

Dance’s switch is significant as a bellwether of public opinion: Not only is Dance’s popular following considerable, especially among conservative voters; but his statements about economic development undercut the chamber’s arguments about where the immediate focus on economic development should be. Dance was explicit on that score: “The school district is the largest employer in the county,” he said. “When the school district is sick, the county is sick. As far as economic development is concerned, if we don’t support the schools, we’re going to see an opposite, the unemployment rate rising even more.”

The school levy wouldn’t be a new tax on property owners, who are already paying the $0.25 per $1,000 in taxable value (or about $31 a year on a $150,000 homesteaded house). But beginning next year, state law requires school boards to ask voters’ permission to maintain that portion of revenue boards had been ensuring by their own majority votes previously. The school district thinks the $2 million is critical if the district is to minimize expected budget shortfalls in the next two years. The shortfall next year could go past $7 million, once federal stimulus dollars run out and should state revenue continue to fall, as I is expected to.

The “economic development” tax has had a rough go of it since the chamber and Enterprise Flagler launched the campaign to get it on the ballot in May–first because of the muddled message behind its purpose, then because of its timing and packaging: The tax was being proposed in a difficult economic environment and under the banner of an agency–Enterprise Flagler–that has little credibility. And its backers were proposing it ahead of county, city and school levies that were heading for the ballot regardless over the next couple of years, effectively jeopardizing the success of those levies by adding to the tax-stacking effect on the ballot.

When Tucker explained why he was undecided last month, he said he’d first gauge what the business community and the “economic development” community backing the Enterprise-chamber tax was thinking about the levy’s success. His investigation over, he said he heard support for the economic development tax only form its core organizers, and decidedly strong opposition to it, even from the business community and the Rotary-type crowd, which he said is giving the tax virtually no chance of passage. The school levy got a more encouraging response, convincing Tucker that it could be a winnable issue.

The school board agreed to prepare a focused campaign to sell the school levy to community groups and the broader public. Board members said the district can stand on its achievements, including fiscal discipline and job cuts in recent years that attest to careful management. One board member, Sue Dickinson, still believes the tax will fail, at least this fall, but she suggested that even if it does so, it could make it back on the ballot again soon.

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10 Responses for “In a Shift, Andy Dance Joins Unanimous Vote for School Tax Referendum in November”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    Andy is a good school board member and a great team player. I am proud to have him serve in the seat that I held for ten years.

  2. BottomLine says:

    Vote his ass out! No additional taxes.

  3. Will says:

    Memo to: Bottom Line

    1. – He had no primary opposition, so he will not be up for election for a few years.
    2. -It’s not an “additional tax”. It’s a continuation of an existing tax, put on the ballot because of state action, but if you read the article, you would have known that.

  4. Charlie says:

    While no one could argue against a great educational system, I do argue, the way, that entities get additional revenues, and don’t have/want to call them a “Tax” ..The School Board, is just adding to it’s Ad Valorem taxes, and the City of Palm Coast, will increase our utility rates, and get away from calling that a “Tax”. This is mathematical diddling at its best..Do they think they are really kidding someone? Call it a tax. Get it all in the correct category. Taxes, we can deduct from our income, if we itemize, but referendums and utilities we cannot.

  5. Monica Campana says:

    Investigating and reporting on the fiscal discipline of the school district would help this necessary referendum pass. Thanks for all you are doing to get the facts out!

  6. H. Peter Stolz says:

    2 no votes for the spending sisters and their little boys (Dance and Tucker). The schoolboard, the teachers’ union and the school administration is still living high off the hog. Lets see some meaningful cuts. Maybe the schoolboard members would give up their salaries – it would fund almost 5 teachers. Maybe the union would be less arrogant and live with last year’s pay schedule. As I said before, there are a lot of people in this county looking at every nickel before being able to spend it where its needed most in their circumstances. This TAX continuation will be looked at very carefully by them, who were left high and dry by the administration when it chose not to grant COLA on Social Security for two years.

  7. some guy says:

    Its odd how in government when a tax cut is timed out like the “Bush” tax cuts it is not a tax incress BUT when its time is out and it IS a tax they will not call it a tax incress??? Why is that???

  8. PCer says:

    We need this tax to keep our school great. The only reason I am still living in Flagler County is because of the schools, otherwise, I would be out. My kids are getting a great education here. I have another 9 years, and then I am gone. However, if the schools start to slip, I will look elsewhere and take my tax dollars with me. I am sure I will not be alone.

  9. PCer says:

    On another note, did they discuss the class size amendment? What was the outcome? How are they going to deal with it? Are they hiring more teachers, adjuncts, or subs?

  10. BW says:

    Here’s a thought, stop paying Enterprise Flagler any County and City Tax dollars and put that money into the schools. Why? Enterprise Flagler doesn’t do anything. In fact, it’s structured exactly the same as the Chamber. What the Chamber doing to attract business? The same as Enterprise Flagler . . . nothing.

    In terms of the schools and these referendums, I’m not a fan. These are a means to try and ‘protect’ the portion of tax dollars for certain programs. A ‘suring up’ if you will regardless of economic conditions. Unfortunately, in down times that would mean that the schools do not have to cut back and would be at a greater cost to other services in the area. In up times, no one cares. I may be more app to vote yes if the schools were more open about what ‘bare bones’ really means and what they are truly doing to reduce waste. I still don’t agree with the $100,00+/year attorney hiring decision in ‘tough times’. And is a factor in not supporting this referendum.

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