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Prospects dim further for 2019 Duval school tax vote

Time is running short, options running out.

The push by the Duval County School Board to force a 2019 referendum for a half-cent sales tax for capital needs looks increasingly doomed.

A memo Tuesday from General Counsel Jason Gabriel to Superintendent Diana Greene and Board Chair Lori Hershey laid the case bare.

The School Board, in Gabriel’s read, lacks legal standing to compel action from the City Council to put the measure on the ballot.

“All legal service requests for outside counsel for the entire consolidated government go through, and must be approved by, the General Counsel,” Gabriel contended.

While Gabriel did agree to draft an emergency resolution to get an Attorney General’s opinion on the matter for the Aug. 13 Council meeting, incumbent Ashley Moody tends toward “diligent” review of thorny matters, and likely wouldn’t fast-track a parsing of Jacksonville’s city Charter.

Wednesday saw a meeting between Chair Hershey and Counsel Gabriel, and per the Florida Times-Union, there was no movement.

When this news outlet asked Gabriel if the School Board had standing, either to compel City Council to vote, or to go to Moody independently, he confirmed the read of his memo.

Gabriel, a holdover from the tail end of the Alvin Brown administration, has proven himself to be a deft exponent of administration policy regardless of who the Mayor is.

When Brown, governing as a socially conservative Democrat, was pressured about expanding the Human Rights Ordinance, Gabriel bought some time, with a review of anti-discrimination ordinances timed for release as Brown left office.

Retained by Republican Lenny Curry, Gabriel has been key in formulating the legal basis for Curry’s reform measures.

In the first term, Gabriel was key in helping Curry and his chief operatives corral the then-problematic Police and Fire Pension Fund (PFPF).

The PFPF was an easy foil, with pension obligations crowding out the city budget. The PFPF, as the School Board did, sought counsel outside of the City Hall shop. Gabriel’s position: they lacked standing to do so.

Though some Council members, such as first-term Republican Matt Carlucci, have openly advocated for an August vote, there seemed to be little enthusiasm to overturn the Rules and Finance committees and push the measure out Tuesday night at Council.

To sum up:

If there is to be a school tax referendum, it looks like it will be in 2020, and City Hall will have the final edit.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. 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 a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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