Jacksonville City Council set to greenlight school sales tax referendum
Equality Florida is not happy with changes in DCPS.

Can a sales tax hike sell in post-COVID 19 world?

With a pandemic raging and a flatlined economy, a path cleared Tuesday for a referendum that could approve a new half-cent sales tax for school improvements in Duval County.

On Monday and Tuesday, three Jacksonville City Council committees approved the measure, and the final vote next week will be an anticlimax, a measure of changing times and circumstances.

The economy was booming by most conventional metrics in 2019 when the proposal was originally floated.

However, tax timing was not right for the Mayor’s Office, which wanted to ensure that charter schools got their cut of the proceeds.

Charters, a concern of the political class, were not a concern for voters reached in one survey.

A poll last year from the University of North Florida found the vast majority of registered Duval County voters (74%) backed a half-cent sales tax for school capital improvements, without a charter carveout.

With that carveout having been resolved by the state Legislature in the favor of charter operators (a tack on appended to the tax package passed in March), resistance on the Council (more attuned to charter concerns than others, as a general rule) faded to a proposed half-cent sales surtax on the November 2020 ballot.

An amendment from Councilmember Matt Carlucci updated the election date to 2020 from 2019, acknowledging and implementing “per pupil” funding for charter and public schools alike, bringing the bill in line with incoming state law.

“The per pupil funding may tamp down the money available to traditional public schools,” Carlucci said Tuesday in Finance, “but that’s what the Legislature deemed.”

The Rules Committee, like the two before it, approved the bill, even as speakers distanced themselves from the effort.

Council President Scott Wilson said he supported the bill, but with reservations about the school district’s plan or communication with his district constituents.

Councilman Michael Boylan cautioned that passing the referendum would not be a “slam dunk.”

Rules followed the other hearings, as previous critics of the concept in Monday and Tuesday morning panels warmed to the tax scheme.

The Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee took up the measure in a Zoom meeting the day before, with just one no vote: Councilmember Rory Diamond called it “irresponsible” to push the current plan and “ambitious” in light of economic deterioration.

Diamond was the sole no vote in two committees of reference.

However, Finance Chair Aaron Bowman expressed concerns ahead of his committee’s vote, including about the economic climate in which the vote would transpire.

Similar referendums moved in dozens of counties in recent years, but this will be the first post-coronavirus tax referendum, should it pass the full Council.

The referendum going forward likewise should make legal action against the city blocking the 2019 referendum moot.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Frankie M.

    April 6, 2020 at 10:55 am

    What a difference 6 months makes…”An amendment from Council member Matt Carlucci updated the election date to 2020 from 2019, acknowledging and implementing “per pupil” funding for charter and public schools alike.”

    Per pupil funding? What kind of happy horseshit is this Carlucci?? You’re supposed to be a champion for public ed not charter school operators but everyone has their price, amirite? I’d expect this kind of shite from Rory..speaking of which “Council member Rory Diamond called it “irresponsible” to push the current plan and “ambitious” in light of economic deterioration.”

    If you wouldn’t have sabotaged the plan last June Rory this wouldn’t be an issue now, would it? At least we could have started collecting $$ instead of going deeper in debt.

    Maybe if the mayor’s kids or Boselli’s kids went to public high schools this wouldn’t have been such an issue? We all saw how quickly Lenny against Covid19 when his boy Boselli went down. This is what passes for leadership these days..smh

    • matt carlucci

      April 8, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Frankie M. I fought per pupil when no one else was. Then the legislature passed it. At some point it is what it is and we have to move forward.

      As to price, I have no price! However,I have paid plenty of them and have the battle scars to show for it. Please don’t preach to me about “everyone has their price”! You can disagree all day,that is your American right. Don’t make it personal… matt 904 703 0999

  • Frankie M.

    April 7, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    How come I read more about this from you than I do from Emily Block and it’s her beat?? All I see on her twitter is stuff about being furloughed and union organizing…smh. Has she already been furloughed?

  • Frankie M.

    April 7, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    Bloch…my apologies

  • Frankie M.

    April 14, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    “The economy was booming by most conventional metrics in 2019 when the proposal was originally floated…However, tax timing was not right for the Mayor’s Office”

    Is “tax timing was not right” some sort of euphemism for kickbacks to charter school operators??

    Congrats to City Council…it only took you a year to do the right thing. But as usual you are doing so half arse(not you Carlucci)
    City Council will sign off on it but they won’t support it? Imagine if they had told the mayor that when he was pushing his kick the can down the road BJP/pension tax 30 year extension a few years ago. With friends like these who needs enemies?

    I was for this sales tax last April but now I’ve changed my mind. Not because of corona but because of the other “C” word…Corruption. Lenny Curry had his minions run out the clock on this thing while lobbyists went thru the backdoor to the state legislature. The worst thing is we saw this coming a year ago and the city council sat on it!

Comments are closed.


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