Residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties will vote on whether or not to support their respective school through property taxes in a special election on March 20.
There are two separate referendums, both of which affect school funding. In Manatee County, the referendum would affect property taxes, raising them by 1 mill, meaning that homeowners would pay an extra dollar for every $1,000 of taxable home value, with a homestead exemption on the first $25,000. The money accumulated from this tax will allow school districts to supplement their current budgets.
Sarasota has had a similar tax in place since 2002, and will be voting on renewing it this March.
The tax currently yields around $56 million a year for Sarasota, and is expected to bring in $33 million annually for Manatee.
According to Elizabeth Djinis, education reporter for the Herald-Tribune, Sarasota school officials say they now use the money to give students an additional 30 minutes of instructional time, as well as to hire more teachers and pay their current ones better. If the referendum is approved, this would continue. Sarasota County teachers are already among the highest paid in the state, second only to Monroe County, she said.
Manatee officials would like to use the money primarily to increase their teacher's salaries by nearly $6,000 each in order to remain competitive with surrounding districts. The teachers would be required to work an extra 15 minutes every day, and students would get an additional 30 minutes of instructional time as well.
The special election will take place in both counties on March 20, with early voting running from March 10-17.