Brevard, Seminole County school boards balance budgets

Failure of tax increase leads to consequences in Brevard County

Brevard County and Seminole County school boards are both working with their budgets in hopes of not cutting schools, but the difference between the two is a tax increase that passed in one county and failed in the other, leading to dire consequences.

In Brevard County, parents and teachers are fighting to save their schools and its programs with their "Marching for Education" event on Thursday, aimed to have the district call for a special election for a quarter-cent tax.

Dozens of parents marched to the board offices, hoping to have their concerns heard by board members at a public forum. The group was met with a surprise Thursday night when the school board members with whom they wanted to speak weren't there.

They want the board to delay a vote that would close four school, which are being considered to save $30 million. The superintendent has also suggested cutting 400 district jobs and increasing class sizes.

The parents told Local 6 they think a special election in November could be they answer. They said they believe voters would approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase, even though a similar measure recently failed. However, in order to have a special election, the board would have to spend about $800,000. Parents want time to help raise that money.

"Local businesses, local people are willing to come up with some of those funds," said Amber Prine.

"It is worth taking the $800,000 out of the contingency fund to pay for a special election in November because it will pass," said Christine McClure.

Some parents said if the district doesn't listen, they will have to move in order to keep their children in A-rated schools.

A meeting on Thursday was scheduled to look at school boundary changes if the schools are actually closed. The board will vote on closing the schools at a meeting on January 22 to make the necessary changes before the 2013-2014 year.

Although Seminole County residents remain divided about the recently passed property tax increase that will add $25 million for schools, proponents believe it puts their district in a better position than their neighbor Brevard County, which shot down a proposed sales tax increase and is facing a budget crisis in their schools.

Seminole County passed a a 1-mil tax hike with 56 percent of the vote in November to ensure the county won't have to close schools.

"It enhances some of the programs that they already have," said lobbyist Stephen Baker. "It allows them to maintain the programs that were going to be cut."

The superintendent in Seminole County says the extra money from the tax increase will go to help students get set up for computerized testing and toward school repairs, such as a roof and air conditioning.

Laureen Lacerra, a grandmother of two toddlers about to enter school, voted for the tax, hoping that it will go to better maintenance and security for schools.

"I'm concerned for their future when they're coming up in a few years," Lacerra said. "Where are they going to go?"

Baker worked with former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to garner support for the tax, which passed in November with 56 percent of county residents' votes.

Opponents of the tax question how the money will be spent, and whether school districts should try to cut the budget instead of depending on government taxes.

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