St. Johns County votes Tuesday on taxing explosive growth


St. Johns County, Florida is known far and wide for its great schools.

They’re so great, in fact, that everyone is moving to the county.

That’s become something of a problem.

Total K-12 student enrollment in St. Johns is up about 45 percent during the past decade. In that time, the district has built 11 new schools and completed a slew of school expansion projects.

During  the next 10 years, school officials say they anticipate the need for as many as 20 new schools to accommodate about 16,000 new students.

All that time, the county has financed the construction via a series of pay-as-you-go quick fixes, such as portable buildings.

But this past June, the St. Johns County School Board called for a referendum election, asking for the authority to levy a 10-year, half-cent sales tax to pay for new construction and improvement projects for the district.

Voters will make the call Tuesday. As has reported, those voters seem poised to support education with their tax dollars.

If approved, that half-cent sales tax increase is estimated to generate $13 million in the first full year and $150 million during the 10-year collection period.

A good chunk of that revenue will likely be paid by visitors passing through, especially tourists in St. Augustine.

It will be an interesting vote. St. Johns is a heavily Republican county, and turnout will likely be low. On the other hand, it’s a county that prides itself on its outstanding schools, which draw transplant families from around the state and nation. This is a referendum to watch.

Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected]


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