Sarasota residents overwhelmingly vote to renew school tax

It's been renewed consistently since 2002.

A schools tax in Sarasota County will be in place for another four years.

With all precincts counted, unofficial final results from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections indicated strong enough levels of support that proved insurmountable. A total of 83,446 voters, about 84.2% of votes counted, favored extending the tax, with just 15,672  votes, about 15.8% of ballots counted, showing no votes.

The one-mill tax is expected to generate $71 million in the coming year. That’s money that will ensure extra classroom hours, competitive teacher salaries and support for extracurricular programs, supporters say.

“We need the money and it goes to a good effort,” said School Board Member Jane Goodwin.

The funding could be especially important in lieu of the Legislature’s continued consideration to financially punish school districts that enforced mask mandates this year. Sarasota County Schools were among 12 districts in the state to require masks in class at the start of the school year, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis issuing an executive order forbidding such a policy.

There was no organized opposition this year to renewing the tax. The Republican Party of Sarasota and the Sarasota Democratic Party alike endorsed the referendum.

Each election cycle since the tax first passed in 2002, voters have come out in support of the tax by increasing margins of victory. That peaked with the tax receiving support from 78.63% of the 62,994 votes that came in during a March 2018 election. This year, it looks like total votes and margin of victory will both reach new heights for the tax.

This year, the referendum shared the ballot with a controversial vote on returning to countywide voting for county commissioners instead of sticking with single-member district voting.

That contributed to a higher turnout this year.

Another potential impact, while there has been no professional campaigning against the measure, the local School Board has come under fire from parents angry at the mask mandate, public comment policy and a host of education issues this year.

This likely marks the last time the tax will appear on a March ballot. Legislation (HB 777) has passed in both chambers of the Legislature that would require tax referendums in the future to appear on the general election ballot.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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