Hillsborough Commissioners to reduce funding to public schools if voters approve new community investment tax

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners approved a compromise deal on Wednesday to extend a half-cent sales tax, known as the Community Investment Tax.

The tax, as proposed, would be a half-cent sales tax to take effect when the current CIT expires in 2026. The tax would be used between the county, cities in Hillsborough County and the school board.

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The tax would significantly cut the amount of money dedicated to schools by the current CIT and would dedicate 5% of the CIT to schools, down from the current 25% given to schools, approved by voters in 1996. That tax was approved for a 30-year period.

At their meeting on Wednesday, several people, including School Board Candidate Jen Flebotte, said they favor significantly reducing the amount of funding given to public schools.

“Why are we increasing our taxes when the issues at hand stem not from lack of funds, but from inadequate management and accountability,” said Flebotte.

County Commissioner Pat Kemp appeared to be the lone voice supporting more funding for schools among commissioners on Wednesday.

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“We are doing 25% for schools and, but when we went to 5% I was deeply, deeply disturbed,” said Kemp.

However several of her motions to get more funding for the schools died without debate.

The CIT tax being proposed this time would only last for 15 years before it comes up for approval again.

Opponents of the current tax proposal say it is completely inadequate for capital improvements for schools.

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Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen threatened during Wednesday’s meeting to make a new motion to cut schools completely out of the CIT if the measure did not pass today.

After a long discussion, the motion passed to put the CIT on the ballot to approve the CIT for 15 years with 5% of the tax going to schools and 95% being used for infrastructure for transportation, public works, public safety, public facilities and public utilities.

The measure will now go on the November ballot for approval by voters.

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