by Chad Oliver, Executive Director, CCPS Communications and Community Engagement
The School Board of Collier County voted, on April 21, 2020, to submit a tax-neutral referendum for
placement on the upcoming August 18 Primary Election ballot. Although it will not result in any increase in tax, the referendum will help maintain and improve our elite status as an academically high-performing district. The success of our school district and students directly affects our community at large.
Historically, state funding has not covered the costs of education. Twenty Florida counties have passed tax increase referendums to help with the funding crisis. These twenty districts represent 65% of all the students in Florida. Although education funding has been an issue for a long time, CCPS has never proposed a tax increase referendum. To be clear, the August referendum will be tax neutral.
Public school districts utilize two types of funds — buckets, if you will — capital and operating. Local, state, and federal taxes fund both, with laws restricting how the money is used. Capital funds pay for projects like facilities, equipment and debt payments.
Operating dollars allow us to recruit and retain a high quality staff and pay for student transportation, athletics, supplies, utilities, etc. Funds from the capital “bucket” cannot be used to support the operating “bucket” without approval from the public.
In 2008, CCPS proposed its first tax neutral referendum. Voters allowed the District flexibility to utilize capital funding to support
operations. In 2012, voters renewed the referendum, which provided greatly needed flexibility and aided our sharp focus on the
needs of individual students. The tax neutral referendum ended in 2016. Without the flexibility of funding, CCPS utilized a reserve budget for shortfalls. The money set aside has supported CCPS students the last four years; however, it will run out.
Especially given the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need flexibility to use capital dollars for operating expenses to meet the needs of students. The referendum —spanning up to four years, beginning July 2021 — will accomplish four things. It reduces ad valorem taxes up to .35 mills for capital funding and shifts ad valorem taxes up to .35 mills for operating expenses. It also provides charter schools with their proportionate share, as required by law, and maintains high quality staff and programs – all without increasing taxes.
CCPS enter this new decade with a proven record of providing equity of learning across Collier County’s 2,300 square miles. In 2011, CCPS ranked 33rd in Florida and today is tied for 5th. Collier County’s high school graduation rate has never been higher at the current rate of 91.9%, which is 19.4 percentage points higher than in 2011. Our entire community will benefit by keeping the positive momentum going. Whether you cast your ballot in person or Vote-by-Mail, today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders will be on the August 18 ballot.