In December 2017, Okaloosa County commissioners approved a temporary half-cent sales tax referendum. Voters will have an opportunity to vote for the much-needed funding this November. The sales tax is needed for county infrastructure projects, including better roads. New roads are urgently needed in north Okaloosa and expanded or improved roads are needed in most parts of the county. The half-cent sales tax will help and it will be a good start.
Our great schools also need help. The schools in Okaloosa County receive some of the best ratings in the state. The ratings and test scores are great, but the accolades belong to the skilled and dedicated teachers, good administrators, the students and dedicated parents.
Imagine what our great teachers (and coaches) could do with the proper facilities and adequate supplies, proper climate control, roofs that don’t leak, classrooms that do not need to be evacuated because of a thunderstorm (portables), modern science labs, new music rooms, improved art facilities, improved ball fields, gymnasiums and maybe even outdoor pools for the swim teams.
Our schools need immediate and necessary help. In March 2017, the administration itself had to abandon its building (in Fort Walton Beach) due to mold and other health concerns. How many other old school buildings are in the same situation? Our children should attend schools that are 100 percent healthy, safe and secure with modern teaching aids and improved buildings.
Voters are not likely to vote for two separate tax initiatives, even if they are temporary. Let’s help correct obvious school infrastructure issues with one longer-term sales tax (one that does not expire for 15 years). Florida Statute Section 212.055(2) allows for school funding with a Local Government Infrastructure Surtax. Voters should urge the Okaloosa County School Board to work with county commissioners and include schools in any new sales tax initiative.
Eric T. Campbell, Niceville