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Hillsborough voters deny property tax increase for schools, Pasco voters approve theirs

Four students gather at school around an outdoor table.
Pasco County School System
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Hillsborough's property tax for schools was defeated. Pasco's sailed through.

UPDATE: Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said a recount is likely in the Hillsborough Schools property tax referendum.

Usually, when voters are asked to pass referendums to fund schools, it's a recipe for success. But that wasn't the case for Hillsborough County, where voters in the state's third largest district turned down a property tax increase.

District leaders had asked voters and parents to turn out for the primary to help fund schools and increase pay for teachers and educational support staff.

The vote was close. With all of the 448 precincts reporting, the measure was defeated by just 619 votes.

Hillsborough’s proposed tax, like that in neighboring Pasco County was a four-year property tax increase to benefit schools in the district. It would have cost property owners $1 for each $1,000 of assessed value.

Pasco’s referendum for schools sailed through. School district leaders in that county said the extra money would help them compete against other school districts when hiring teachers.

About 24 percent of Pasco voters turned out for the primary election. And more than 58 percent of them voted yes to increase their own property taxes to fund schools.

Hillsborough County voters are still paying on a half-penny sales tax to support building upgrades and air conditioners. That tax was passed under an earlier administration in 2018 and is in effect until 2028.

Hillsborough Schools held several meetings to educate parents and the general public about the need for the property tax increase to make the district more competitive in hiring teachers.

But parents who messaged WUSF on social media said the school district needed to prove it was more fiscally responsible before asking for more money.

Hillsborough County voters were asked to decide on the following question:

Shall The School Board of Hillsborough County levy an ad valorem operating millage of 1 mil annually for fiscal years July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2027, to (i) increase compensation to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and staff, (ii) expand art, music, and physical education, (iii) expand workforce development, sharing funds with charter schools proportionate with student enrollment as required by law, with annual reporting to ensure proper stewardship of funds to taxpayers?

With 100% precincts reporting:

YES - 49.75 percent
NO - 50.25 percent

Pasco County voters were deciding on the following question:

Shall the District School Board of Pasco County levy an additional operational ad valorem millage not to exceed one mill beginning July 1, 2023, and ending no later than June 30, 2027, for essential operating expenses to maintain salaries competitive with the market, attract and retain high-quality teachers, bus drivers, and other non-administrative school support employees and with annual reporting to Pasco County taxpayers for transparency of the use of these funds:

With 119 of 120 precincts reporting:

YES for millage - 58.59 percent
NO for millage - 41.41 percent

Updated: August 24, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT
This story has been updated with Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer saying a recount is likely.
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