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Jax Chamber backs school sales tax vote

The referendum had no legs in 2019, but momentum is building.

There’s more momentum for the Duval County school capital sales tax referendum, as the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce endorsed the November ballot item Thursday.

The endorsement offered another indication that the city’s establishment is ready to back long-delayed capital spending for Duval County public schools.

“This is an important investment in our public school system and in our community,” JAX Chamber Chair Henry Brown said. “The referendum would pay for needed upgrades and comes at a time where the influx of construction jobs will be critical for our local economy.”

Though the referendum effort in 2019 was frustrated by a number of procedural roadblocks, including a Mayor and City Council resistant to back an effort that didn’t include a per-pupil share for charter schools, 2020’s push has seen the resistance evaporate, with the state requiring equal distribution.

Mayor Lenny Curry offered an ironclad endorsement in April. The Jacksonville City Council likewise allowed the matter onto the November 2020 ballot, even as members fretted over worries that the school board and its allies may not be able to convince voters to authorize a new 1/2 cent tax.

As if reflective of the schizophrenia of the city’s political class on this issue, competing political committees have been established to sell the surtax.

The Duval Citizens for Better Schools political committee, chaired by School Board member Warren Jones, has $222,000 banked. But another political committee looks poised to run its own operation.

The Venice-based Together for All Our Students political committee, chaired by Eric Roberson, looks likely to offer its own messaging in the push.

Expect that Mayor Lenny Curry’s allies may be more comfortable with the more recently launched committee, if April’s lack of donations to the Jones committee means anything.

While there has been no post-coronavirus polling about the prospective tax, surveys before the current crisis reflected conceptual support.

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

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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