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Hillsborough County Commission Offers To Work With School Board On AC Problem


Last month was the Tampa Bay Area’s hottest September on record and because of constant air conditioning problems, some Hillsborough County students felt the heat more than others.

County commissioners want to step in to help with the school district's AC and infrastructure issues. District 5 Commissioner Ken Hagan brought up the county school’s air conditioning problem during a board meeting on Wednesday. One solution offered was that the county use it's AAA bond rating to secure a loan for the school district

“I feel very strongly that we should have the conversation with the district to see if we can help to remedy this dire situation,” he said. “We partner with the school district on a number of areas, and I think this is another one that we should consider.”

Hagan motioned that the county collaborate with the school district to explore ways they can help expedite upgrades to air conditioners and other building infrastructure.

“I fully acknowledge the district's funding issues are not our responsibility,” he said. “However, I cannot sit back and ignore the issues facing hundreds of thousands of our children.”

The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of Hagan’s motions, agreeing that children are an important part of the county.

“I think it’s critically important that we put our kids first,” said Commissioner Victor Crist. “If there’s anything we can do to get these repairs going sooner than later, I think we have a responsibility to do that.”

But school district officials said that what they need is more revenue, not a loan.

Grayson Kamm, communications and media officer for Hillsborough schools, said the district would prefer to use money from the proposed half-cent sales tax that will go before Hillsborough voters in November. 

"We're very happy to get together with them, but it does not take away from the fact that borrowing is not the real solution to this problem," he said. "That is not a real solution. That money still needs to be paid back."
The school district already has about $1 billion in outstanding mortgage debt and another $1 billion in infrastructure needs. If passed, the half-cent sales tax would generate $1.3 billion over the next 10 years. More than half of that would go to the necessary A/C repairs and replacements.

"When you're talking about needing two hundred air conditioner replacements and a high school air conditioner might cost $5 to $8 million dollars, it needs to be a major effort on the part of our community," Kamm said.

Bethany Hanson is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
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