Despite slow-walking, Jacksonville City Council panel talks up school tax referendum

city hall
No action, just words.

Jacksonville City Councilmembers continue to slow-walk a bill the Duval County School Board is eager for them to pass.

The School District wants a referendum in 2019, authorizing an additional half-cent sales tax to fund nearly $2 billion in deferred capital projects.

However, the City Council has yet to authorize such.

The School Board meets with the full City Council on Aug. 14 (one day after the next Council meeting), ensuring no Council vote to authorize a referendum until late-August.

Nevertheless, despite deferring the referendum bill, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee discussed the measure Tuesday morning.

Finance, in a sense, is a window into the Mayor’s Office’s thinking.

Chairman Aaron Bowman leads a crew that mostly employed Curry’s chief consultant, Tim Baker: Council newcomers LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, and Ron Salem did, as well as Terrance Freeman. Democrat and Council VP Tommy Hazouri endorsed Curry for reelection.

Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, though not part of the Curry machine, was appointed initially (as was Freeman) to the Council by Gov. Rick Scott. She is friendly with the Mayor’s Office.

The committee had what Bowman called a “frank discussion.”

“I’m favoring the 2020 timeframe,” Bowman added. “But I’m only one-seventh of this committee.”

Ron Salem said he had questions about “broad-based issues,” including the funding of charters and using the Uniform Building Code rather than a more stringent code typically used for public schools.

Salem also wants a robust monitoring committee.

“There will be changes. There will be a recession. There will need to be changes to the plan,” Salem said. “Who will make those changes?”

Cumber said she feels “attacked for asking questions.”

“All our questions are legitimate. I asked very specific questions that weren’t close to being answered,” Cumber said, lamenting a “lack of seriousness” in the board answers.

“Being told by the chair that our questions were absurd” likewise nettled Chairman Bowman.

Councilman Al Ferraro noted his constituents’ questions were dismissed as “goofy.”

Hazouri warned of “a lot of organized opposition” to this referendum, a potential “one-shot deal.”

 Randy DeFoor, whose district has many old schools, likewise wishes the plan had been fleshed out.

Growth areas and areas without sufficient population are not addressed.

DeFoor wants the board and Council to “sit down like adults” and “remove the emotion.”

“Look at this to make sure every student’s needs are being addressed,” DeFoor advised. “Right now, they are not.”

School Board member Ashley Smith-Juarez spoke, expressing disappointment over the inability to find “resolution.”

“We are here to work with you … to move this process forward as grown adults, together,” Smith-Juarez said.

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 AG@FloridaPolitics.com


2 comments

  • Frankie M.

    August 6, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Maybe Cumber should have run for school board instead of city council? She seems way more interested in school board business than city business. Just put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.

    Cumber said she feels “attacked for asking questions.”

    “All our questions are legitimate. I asked very specific questions that weren’t close to being answered,” Cumber said, lamenting a “lack of seriousness” in the board answers.

  • Frankie M.

    August 6, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    It’s clear the council isn’t interested in the answers to their questions. No amount of information will be sufficient for them unless there is a guaranteed dollar figure next to yet to be built charter schools. At least they are smart enough to realize that by investing in our crumbling infrastructure public schools will be more appealing to parents than strip mall charter schools. The council is in Dean Smith’s 4 corners offense trying to run out the clock. Unfortunately for them that “foolish woman” doesn’t suffer fools well. She’s gone out and got Duval schools the best damn civil defense attorney in town. Curry and his flunkies know they can’t win this battle in a court of law but that won’t keep them from using crooked legislators and General Counsel. I’m talking about that dynamic duo…the Jasons. One can’t read(the word shall specifically) & the other can’t write(his own legislation.)

    It doesn’t matter. They will drag this into 2020 because they know it would pass in a low voter turnout November 2019 election. That’s how most of them got elected. It will be put on the ballot eventually and the high crime, corporate welfare, anti-public education mayor and his “relationships” will try to sink it because it doesn’t come with guaranteed kickbacks to his charter donors. It’s like a bad Nancy Drew novel.

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