Voters to decide ballot question in November

NICEVILLE — A half-cent sales tax initiative that would generate money to help upgrade local schools represents an investment in the future, Okaloosa County School Board Chairman Tim Bryant said at Monday’s board meeting.

Numerous area schools need repairs, not further patchwork, and the School District needs a solid funding source in light of state funding cuts, Bryant said.

He and fellow board members Linda Evanchyk and Diane Kelley agreed to have district Superintendent Marcus Chambers direct staff to work with local community leaders on the proposed 10-year tax initiative.

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Board members Dewey Destin and Lamar White were absent from the meeting.

Community leaders who support the tax measure include those from local businesses and area chambers of commerce.

"This is our time. We cannot wait" for area school buildings to fall in greater disrepair, local attorney Michelle Anchors told the board.

With help from a district consultant, a list of each school’s greatest capital needs will be presented to the board this spring, Anchors said.

Supporters plan to have the half-penny tax question placed on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

If approved by a majority of voters, the tax would generate an estimated $20 million annually to benefit the district’s capital needs, such as repairs to school roofs, the replacement of portable classrooms with brick-and-mortar ones, and upgrades to the district’s bus fleet.

Chambers said while the School District has some of the best students, teachers, staff and administrators in the state, "I can’t say that of our schools."

Kelley said a great example of the need for the potential half-cent sales tax revenue rose up earlier Monday at a nearby school. There, a teacher had to use an umbrella to keep rain from falling through the leaking roof onto her computer and desk, Kelley said.

"I’ve had the umbrella incident in my classroom," noted Evanchyk, who was a teacher for 38 years.

In 2017, a half-cent sales tax initiative started by local business leaders failed to gain traction because of various investigations of the School District when it was led by former Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.

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