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Education

Hernando leaders disagree on when school tax referendum should go on the ballot

People sitting at a dais. Behind them are two flags and a sign on a wall. A stenographer sits in front of them to the left.
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Hernando County School Board
The Hernando County school board voted unanimously to sue the commission over its decision to hold a vote on the renewal of a sales tax referendum until 2024.

The school board says the tax is essential to help plan and allot money for new schools as more housing is built — and an influx of people move into the area.

A number of Tampa Bay area school boards are pursuing some form of tax referendum to raise money for much-needed renovations, salary increases, and more.

Hernando County's school board would like to join them by seeking renewal of a sales tax referendum in November.

But the county's board of commissioners struck down the plan — saying a 2024 vote would allow for more preparation time.

Now, the school board has voted to sue the commission over their decision.

The school board said the tax is essential to help plan and allot money for new schools as more new housing is built as an influx of people move into the area.

The board voted unanimously to sue the commissioners. School board member Jimmy Lodato expressed his regret before the final vote.

“It is sad that we have to move in this direction with all the peace and harmony that we have tried to instill in the community and the fact that all we are doing is asking the community to vote on this," he said. "I feel that we have absolutely zero choice to move forward."

Vincent LaBorante is the president of the Hernando County Classroom Teachers Association. He told the board his members support the lawsuit.

In addition to allowing the district to plan how it will pay for new schools as the county population expands, LaBorante said the tax is necessary to address school buildings that are in "dire need of repair."

"I get phone calls daily talking about cracks in ceilings, cracks in walls, air conditioning systems not working, pavement...sidewalk cracks...safety issues."

LaBorante said the current tax referendum has shown that the county can raise the money needed to fix many of these issues.

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