Note: Early voting begins Saturday, Aug. 4, leading up to the primary election on Aug. 14. All registered Flagler County voters, regardless of party affiliation–including Independents, Democrats and Republicans–may cast a vote in the referendum asking voters to renew the half-penny sales tax for schools. The referendum would merely renew the tax, which was approved in 2002 with 70 percent of the vote. The results of the referendum on Aug. 14 will decide the matter.
By Andy Dance
Ten years ago, the citizens of Flagler County approved a half penny sales tax referendum to benefit the Flagler County School District. The funds were dedicated for capital projects and for improving technology in the classroom. As a school board member and parent, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your investment in education ten years ago. That half-penny made a world of difference to our students.
At the time, Flagler County was growing rapidly, and the District was having a hard time keeping up with the growth. The additional funding was essential as it allowed the District to keep up with growth. Over the past ten years, the half-penny has generated 34 million dollars, and provided the necessary funding to:
- Construct Belle Terre Elementary School
- Implement a 3:1 computer ratio of students to computers in the classroom
- Implement “Smart Classroom” technology, allowing teachers access to a wide assortment of media to supplement classroom instruction
- Install wireless networking in all school buildings
- Provide an on-line parent grade book, allowing parents access to student grades
- Implement additional safety measures at all schools.
I see the benefits provided to the schools and ultimately the students through the half-penny proceeds on a daily basis. Whether I am visiting a school on a particular day, listening to fellow parents talk about the technology based classroom projects and activities their children are involved with or reviewing projects and assignments with my own children in the evening, I am continually amazed at the way our teachers and administrators are infusing technology into classroom instruction. This commitment to technology keeps the students engaged in their studies and helps prepare the students for future high-tech jobs that await them after graduation.
Ten years later, Flagler County Schools are facing an entirely different landscape. Amid the “Great Recession”, the economic conditions are drastically different than ten years ago. In just the last six years, school funding has been slashed, property values have plummeted and our state and local economies have tanked. The state capital funds that the District has relied on in the past have seen significant reductions. State Capital funding has gone from $33.5 million dollars to 0.9 million dollars. The legislature reduced the capital millage rate from 2 to 1.5 mills. Local capital revenue has dropped 77%, with only 5.6 million dollars being available this year (after debt service) for all capital expenditures. At the same time, our student population has increased by 200 students, so we are servicing more students with significantly less funding. We have been able to weather this storm with creative cost reductions from all facets of district operations and balancing the budget every year as required by state law.
As we look to the future, all the economists predict a slow recovery. There are no more stimulus funds; no more short term fixes on the horizon. The school district will continue to be creative in its cost reduction strategies; looking for cost savings from every part of our operations while ensuring we continue to invest in curriculum, programs and technology that promotes the District’s mission and vision. To this end, the Flagler County School District is asking for your continued investment of a half-penny to support our schools. Now more than ever, we need the support of the local community. We are asking for your continued investment in the education of our most precious resource, our children.
Property Appraiser Jay Gardner on the Half-Penny Sales Tax[media id=290 width=250 height=250]
Please remember that the half penny funding is dedicated to capital expenditures, so the district can only use these funds on hard, tangible items like building construction, renovation and repair, computers and other educational devices and their implementation and school safety. Just as important is the fact that this funding source adds capital funding flexibility for the District, allowing us to be creative and best utilize the state capital funds the District receives for the specific needs of Flagler County Schools.
The continuance of the half penny is critical to the District for many reasons. First and foremost, the funding will allow us to focus on our District mission of ensuring educational success through high expectations and innovative thinking in a safe learning environment. The annual revenue of 4 million dollars from the half-penny is needed to keep our schools in good condition, keep our technology up to date with the demands of new curriculum and testing requirements and ensure the safety and security of our students.
With the continuance of this half penny, the district can accomplish the following:
- Renovating and repairing our existing, aging school campuses. For example, aging roofs and air conditioning systems need repairs and/or replacement
- Upgrading computers and hardware & replacing outdated technology
- Expanding use of technology in the classroom and reducing the student to computer ratio
- Implement the state requirement for electronic textbooks by 2014
- Properly support the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Academy
- Expand iFlagler (virtual school) and increase access to computers and computer labs for students
- Develop a Microsoft IT Academy, providing students an opportunity to earn Microsoft Industry Certification before they graduate
- Ensure technology infrastructure is ready to handle the electronic assessments that are required for the Common Core State Standards Initiative
- Reduce stress on the general fund to allow for the continuation and expansion of programs like Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Service Learning, Future Problem Solvers, Community Problem Solvers, sports, clubs, and the arts
- Flexibility to utilize other capital resources for the purchase of new school buses to replace our aging fleet of buses
In conclusion, the Flagler County School district has placed the renewal of the half– penny sales tax on the August 14th ballot for the many reasons stated above. You will have the opportunity on August 14th to once again demonstrate that Flagler County voters support investing in a high quality school system. Great schools are critically important to the health and economic stability of our community.
In support of the high quality education in Flagler County, a political action committee called “Funding Flagler’s Educational Future – 2012, PAC” (FFEF) was created to inform and encourage citizens to support the half– penny sales tax. The committee created a Facebook page and webpage with the slogan “Make Cents 4 Kids” to help spread the word.
FFEF believes strongly that the renewal of the half-cent sales tax is critical to the quality of education in Flagler County, and they are asking that you join them in support of this referendum. Please “Like” the MakeCents4Kids Facebook page and visit the informational webpage for more information. From the webpage you can sign up to join FFEF, register to volunteer or submit a donation to FFEF to help support the mission and spread the word about the importance of the half–penny to Flagler County Schools.
Thank you again for your past support and your consideration for continuing the half- penny referendum.
Andy Dance is a member of the Flagler County School Board, representing District 1. Reach him by email here.
I suggest that the school system has become “fat” at the taxpayers expense. I have had decreasing wages and increasing taxes for the last 4 years. They hide the increase in taxes by facy words like “rollback rates” The property tax milage rate continues to increase while property values decrease. I never had a computer growing up and while I agree that they are important to understand…I seemed to have learned just fine on my own. Please help me send a message to our government….NO MORE TAX….They will never stop,,,this 1/2 cent leads to another penny and another nickel and so on…
Education First says
I believe the negative feedback that gets presented online when it comes to the schools, mainly reflects people that do not have kids in the system. As a country America is slipping quickly in education, and whether you have kids in the schools or not, you should support future generations that will be taking over the messes that we leave behind. I can almost GUARANTEE that you have a grandchild or great-grandchild that represents this identity. DO THE RIGHT THING, AND SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS.
Yeah the district is soo fat and rich… The half penny also supports the salaries of Many departments, the IT department for one… The people who do the training and implement all the new stuff, while making the same amount AND who have been neglected raises and steps for some time… 1/2 penny isn’t going to change your life… Count the change in your couch and you’ll make up what you’re out.
You should have went to the technology exhibit at the back to school jam so you could understand how far BEYOND our technology is thAn other districts. If this doesn’t pass, it will all dramatically change. Why would you want the Students to suffer because you’re upset with officials?
Andy, you agree to wear pink tutu to board meetings with all other board members and you got my vote! This should be a wake up call! You forced my kids to wear a uniform in school, you too should wear one! One that the voters want!
I would hope next time you go asking for money, you consider your previous actions. The people who are voting, are the ones your begging to go with your mission!
I agree, the 1/2 cent tax should remain in place for the schools. People paid for my kids to go to school, I don’t mind contiuing paying for the new generation to go to school by a meager 1/2cent.
We need a well run county and a well run school system—-leave the half penny in place as it has been for 10 years or so.
This makes sense for all the reasons Mr. Dance described.
I read all the negative comments as if 1/2 cent is going to break the bank for these people. Did anyone think that perhaps tourists stopping for gas, hotels and something to eat will be paying a good share of this tax as well. Hey, we might be paying some other counties or State sales tax driving through too. Much ado about nothing. These Tea baggers are gadflys.
Flagler Mom says
Andy is completely correct on this issue, but he neglected to mention the state mandated requirement for computer based testing. ALL of the end of course exams (algebra, biology, etc.) are taken on the computer. These tests are now graduation requirements. Many of the kids are terrified of these exams to begin with; adding the possibility of the computers suddenly “bumping” them off makes the situation even more stressful.
I urge Flagler citizens to maintain the half penny sales tax. Oh, and for all of the retirees out there who have already raised their families… who do you think is usually driving those ambulances, police cars and fire trucks that we all count on so critically at times? You guessed it – former Flagler county students. So please, support the tax. Thank you.
Flagler County Retiree says
I am one of those retirees who has already raised her children; and I do support continuation of the 1/2 cent sales tax. Yes, even retirees know the importance of education. Flagler Mom didn’t need to point that out, as it hasn’t been the retirees who have been speaking out against it but the very people whose children will benefit from the money the tax will bring in who have been most vocal against the passing.
Flagler Mom says
Flagler County Retiree,
You are right, of course, about not all retirees being against the tax and I apologize for making a generalization. The statement regarding “I’ve already raised my kids” is unfortunately one I’ve heard far too often. Fortunately there are also many wiser and more enlightened folks out there as well. Thank you for supporting our children.
Dadgum I think you missed the point of the “negative comments” you speak of. Mr Dance has eloquently made a case for the need to continue the half cent tax that is collected for our schools.That is what rersponsible elected officials do. The other half cent is where the negative comments arise from. If county Commisioners had come forward and laid out their plans honestly and allowed the voters to decide, there probably would have been very little backlash. But that is not what occured. The commision instead chose to unilaterally disenfranchise Flagler county voters, without a clear plan for the jail. They decided that their plan could not pass a vote by the same people that put them in office, so in essence they chose to dismiss the wishes of their own electorate. The commisison took away your right to vote on an issue that directly imapcts your life. Why? Because they new you wouldnt pass it. They said so themselves.Thats outrageous. Each and everyone one of these people need to be held accounatble. Vote them out.
If I vote for this 1/2 cent tax for the school system, will my grandchildren, nephews, and neice get to learn American history, Math, Science ? Will they learn about our Constitution ? Will they be allowed to recite the Pledge of Allegience ? Will they be able to speak up for their conservative values or will they have to ONLY except the liberal, gay agenda ?
I agree Biker and voted against the tax when I voted by absentee ballot. I can’t say for sure but I surmise the votes on the referendum were heavily favored against the 1/2 cent tax and the Commission went in to overdrive to have this passed by the voters. Is that illegal to peek at absentee ballots before the official closing of the polls?
I support technology. I had decided to do more analog work as opposed to digital works. Not as much Photoshop and I don’t do digital video any longer. I understand what to do but the biggest point I can make is that my computer skills have suffered. I’ve realized that digital information has surpassed me. Our children have an advantage when they are ahead with this technology in our schools. It’s important to keep up with technology. But the question is how much. When I see documents written by students I question why it is that they write so poorly.( I volunteer to help kids and have seen documents and am mostly disappointed). I question why they cannot spell and as for their math skill I wonder as well. Is technology helping the academics or is it just another part of the curriculum as is reading, writing and arithmetic. Has it hampered our children’s spelling, penmanship, and other aspects that was taught at a traditional level as with the I.B.program? As for technical infrastructure I can see how the half cent tax helps. But honestly the amount of students that have smart phones and laptops at home makes the cry for the 3:1 ratio of computers to students make the cry for this a moot point. This bring me to think about some incentives to help parents buy computers cutting costs and having those computers purchased through this used in the schools. These computers won’t be outdated for approx.three years. And strategic buying can correlate with school years. I do support the tax but I question the logic and implementation of this technology and how the money is being spent.
of the negative supporters, i wonder how many of you took an hour of your day to visit a school to see what exactly goes on, technology wise.
id love to see the look on some of your faces when you sit down with an official (not an administrator) and a student and saw how the technology changes the students lives.
dadgum, you voted against the wrong one, the 1/2 cent on the ballot has nothing to do with the BOCC or Palm Coast, that one was to be on the Nov. ballot, the 1/2 cent on this ballot is for the schools only!
The half penny Andy is talking about has NOTHING to do with the County Commissions discussion regarding the half penny. TWO TOTALLY SEPARATE ISSUES!! @Clint – you need to spend some time in our schools.
You folks are seriously [email protected] Fat?? Please tell us how. They’ve done nothing but cut, cut, cut each and every year. This is a continuation and supported by many who don’t even live here. Who’s to say we won’t start growing again and need to build another school. or why wouldn’t we want our kids to have the best technology? All of this improves our property values and impacts our community. Come on folks – educate yourselves before blindly following the flock of nay sayers.
There has been waste in the school system for as far back as memorable, not just in Florida but all over the country. Just mention childrens’s education and people are supposed to stand aside and forego any opposition to increased taxes.
Just stop the waste and useless programs and cram education into the time allowed for each day in class, and there will be no need for extra revenue. If that is unacceptable then go to plan B, make the class size larger, get the kids off the floor, sit each student in a separate desk, forget the crap about socialization in the classroom and get down to the serious business of educating. All of this nonsense is preventing the best teachers from doing their job. I remember class sizes upwards of 45 to 50 students with complete silence and discipline when the teacher is instructing. Maybe that is not possible today without parental guidance, respect, and obedience in the home. If that is true, then I feel sorry for America because it is not going to get any better.
Cutting extra curricular actives is no real solution. how about at your job,they cut you lunch break, force you to eat while you work and instead of using a computer, you get a note pad and some charcoal pencils. think about it.. your business will save time and money!
if you want to produce next generation learners/professionals, you have to expand and grow with technology, and if that means spending more every year to accommodate that need, then guess what… thats what you do.. spend more money. and when the state is raping you year after year, you turn to your community and say “please help us, we have things we need to do and we’d like us all to get together and help our children out”
however, your community then says “whoa whoa whoa, I’m not giving you .5 of a penny, thats crazy! i need to buy things with that, and i have a family to provide for, I’m not giving you 1/100 of a dollar, money doesn’t grow on trees. where am i supposed to get that 1/5 of a nickel? i earned that nickel, you take enough of my money in taxes with your administrators paychecks… sorry”
i dont understand how so many people just don’t understand this… is it because they themselves aren’t involved or interested in technology? and are so selfish, they don’t want to see others continue their advancement?
Bronx Guy says
There is much talk about this half-cent sales tax but we in Flagler County pay one cent over the state-allowed rate of six cents per dollar. As a newcomer, I would like to know where this extra money is going. If it is to support the roads, drive on Palm Harbor Parkway adjacent to The Tidelands. It sounds as if a tank drove over it. What goes Mr. Landon and Mr. Coffey?