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Board prepares to ask for half-cent tax hike

The School Board anticipates a $419-million construction shortfall by 2010 if the state and county don't cover it.

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 9, 2006

TAMPA - The Hillsborough County School Board is ready to let administrators begin planning for a fall half-cent sales tax to help pay for new schools.

The board is expected to give superintendent MaryEllen Elia permission to prepare for a referendum at its Tuesday meeting at the School Administrative Center downtown. The board wants to ask voters for a tax hike if state lawmakers and county commissioners don't come through with enough money to fund a $419-million construction shortfall expected by 2010.

"We have to have a game plan to move forward," said board member Jennifer Faliero.

The board doesn't plan to formally vote on whether to seek the referendum until the end of the legislative session.

Board members are hopeful they will see a windfall from lawmakers and from county commissioners, who are considering whether to hike fees on new homes.

"This is all speculation," board member Susan Valdes said.

Already the nation's ninth-largest school district, Hillsborough expects enrollment to grow 18 percent in the next five years, to 224,000. About one-fourth of the schools are at or over capacity. And when mandated class size caps are included, about half of the schools have too many kids in classrooms.

[Last modified March 9, 2006, 02:45:12]

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