‘$2 billion and a new tax’: Lenny Curry cool on Duval school tax referendum
Don't call it a comeback: Coronavirus cured the Curry poll slump.

Lenny Curry
"I think the people of Jacksonville need to see more details."

The Duval County School Board wants a half-cent sales tax referendum this year to address a nearly $2 billion capital backlog.

However, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry stopped far short of a ringing endorsement Thursday, questioning the timing and the fragmentary case made so far.

While avoiding the excoriation of the concept that some close to Curry have offered, the Mayor (careful in public comments) clearly is not on board yet.

“The proposal put forth by the school board, all I’ve seen is a proposal of a $2 billion new tax,” Curry said.

“Waiting to see details,” Curry said. “Like any piece of legislation, this has to go through the City Council.”

Over four years, Curry’s thinking has informed the City Council dispensation on most issues, leading to consensus on all except for the exploration of JEA privatization and the Human Rights Ordinance expansion.

“I think the people of Jacksonville need to see more details. I do not support a special election for one referendum: it’s too costly,” Curry added.

Curry went on to advocate for “school choice.”

“I’ve long been a supporter,” Curry said.

Timing is key for the school board, which wants a special vote in November.

Yet the board, which contemplates an additional ½-cent sales tax to pay down a $1.95 billion capital backlog, will face some institutional roadblocks ahead of said window.

For one, Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel issued Monday a preemptory legal opinion that noted referenda timing and whether they happen at all is a sole judgment of the Council.

“The Council has legislative discretion regarding whether and when to place the sales surtax referendum on the ballot … nothing in the statute explains why a court should limit the council’s discretion to merely the date, or the form, of the election,” Gabriel added.

Typically, the official position of this General Counsel reflects prevailing policy currents in the Mayor’s Office, as was spotlighted with attacks on the then-wayward Police and Fire Pension Fund not too long ago.

Council President Aaron Bowman told the Florida Times-Union that the bill would be on a six-week cycle, doubting a “need to rush” through a vote on this.

But there is a reason to rush: Any referendum happening after the end of this year, per HB 5, must be on a general election ballot.

One bit of good news for referendum proponents: The bill’s original ask for a two-thirds supermajority for discretionary sales surtax referenda was scotched during back and forth with the Senate.

However, the Mayor is not on board, at least not as this board would prefer.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


4 comments

    • Ben

      May 9, 2019 at 10:53 am

      The mayor’s pension debt amortization scheme screwed the district’s chances at addressing the issue a few years back (the wheels were moving behind the scenes to get this on the ballot before the mayor announced his tax) and now that they’re a bit further out with a full plan he’s acting like generating $2bil to build and renovate schools from a 1/2 cent tax is too risky? People need “more information” after the district put together a very detailed plan on how every cent will be spent?

      Little known fact about the mayor’s debt amortization tax – he convinced the legislature to let him wrap up the city’s ability to raise capital funds for DECADES. And for what? So he could push the unions out of defined benefits? There were other solutions to that issue which were simply left off the table and never even considered. Meanwhile the school district is trying to use their 1/2 cent capital tax (granted by the state) for legit purposes and he’s criticizing and getting in the way. Seems like he wants our public schools to fail. Also, I seriously question his “CPA” accolades.

  • Frankie M.

    May 9, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    According to AG our children’s future is all part of some political game. Clearly AG doesn’t have kids. But the mayor does which makes me question his motivations. School choice is all fine & good until you start starving public schools for your donors pet charter schools. Then you become Detroit. If the mayor doesn’t know the details of the school’s plan to address infrastructure then he’s either incompetent or ignorant. As a concerned parent I would hope it’s not the latter. There have been countless charettes about this issue which I know the mayor doesn’t care for. Maybe he doesn’t know because he doesn’t want to know? Ignorance can be bliss. Just because the school system doesn’t have a million dollar budget to market this like one of the mayor’s many PACs doesn’t make a sales tax referendum a bad idea.

  • Rocco

    May 10, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    It’s long past time that “apartment dwellers and renters” pay school taxes like homeowners do, don’t ya think? I’m sick and tired of seeing the Downtown Clowns in City council approve tax breaks to developers that build apartments! Renters aren’t invested in our community like home owners are!

Comments are closed.


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