Brevard School Board puts sales tax vote on ballot

Board votes 4-1 to approve measure

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Voters will decide in November whether to approve a county-wide half-cent sales tax, which would raise about $32 million annually for Brevard Public Schools for facility repairs, replacements and purchases.

The Brevard School Board voted 4-1 Tuesday, with Board member Amy Kneessy opposed, to send the proposal to the ballot.  If approved, it would increase Brevard's current 6 percent sales tax to 6.5 percent, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

The half-cent sales tax is seen as a solution to funding shortfalls that have left little room in the district's budget for needed building repairs and improvements.

The district's capital funding stream fell from $117 million in state and local funding in 2007-08 to an expected $43 million this upcoming school year.

State funding shortfalls and declining revenue from local property taxes due to state changes in the capital funding formula and declining property values all contributed to the downturn.

In addition to paying for needed repairs, the half-cent sales tax would help pay for infrastructure upgrades needed to comply with the state's mandate to convert to digital materials by 2014, School Board Member Andy Ziegler said Kneessy said she agrees there's a need for additional capital revenue, but could not support the measure due to its timing.

"If you're going to do something, you need to do it right. There's not enough time to give this vote the justice it needs," she said, later adding: "I believe this is a 2014 ballot issue, not a 2012 ballot issue," she said.

If voters approve the sales tax in November, officials will put a 10-year time limit on the sales tax and include measures to stop it if the county's tax assessments bounce back to the 2008-09 peak.

Tax assessments peaked that year at $41 billion. For the upcoming school year, the certified tax roll is $27.5 billion.

The proposed half-cent sales tax would start in January and effectively replace the "critical needs" millage referendum - currently 25 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value - that helped the district raise about $7 million. That expires June 30, 2013.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.