WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County hopes voters will continue to fund district operations with a portion of their property taxes when they head to the polls.
The current referendum voters approved in 2018 will expire next year, and the district wants to continue it for another four years.
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Stephanie Stinchcomb is passionate about teaching art at South Olive Elementary School in West Palm Beach.
"It's not all perfect and awesome when they go home sometimes," Stinchcomb said. "And they come here and they can just let it out. And they can be themselves, no matter what."
Stinchcomb said her job depends on the upcoming referendum and voters choosing to continue funding school operations with 1 mil on their property tax bill.
"I was put into a first grade classroom when my position was cut 11, 10 years ago. And even if we weren't cut and we got to keep our positions, supplies. Our budget has been nothing before, and it has increased because of the referendum," Stinchcomb said.
"Florida is 44th in the nation in terms of funding for education," said Superintendent Mike Burke. "So in Palm Beach County, we want to be able to provide more than the basic services, and this referendum allows us to do that."
Burke said this is not a tax increase, but a continuation of what homeowners are already paying.
If your home is worth $300,000 with exemptions, it's about $300 dollars a year.
The referendum brings in about $250 million a year for things like school safety improvements, 750 teaching positions in art, music, physical education, and Choice programs, along with mental health support on school campuses, and teacher pay increases.
"This represents, on average, across all our teacher salaries, about $8,000 a year that our teachers would lose," Burke said. "And I'd be very concerned that teachers would be hard pressed to be able to stay in Palm Beach County without these supplements."
Some of you chimed in on the WPTV Facebook page with concerns like, "I understand the school district budget this year is almost 5 billion dollars they don’t need an extra $250 millions."
Another viewer posted, "What happened to money from the lottery? Once you have no kids in the school system we should not need to pay school tax!"
"You really can't cut the non-salary things," Burke said. "And if we were to lose this kind of revenue, we are going to have to scale back our workforce."
According to the School District of Palm Beach County, the current referendum, which will expire next year, provides these annual salary supplements to teachers, based on their years of experience:
- $1,000: 1 to 4 years
- $5,000: 5 to 9 years
- $10,000: 10 or more years
Stinchcomb said the increased salary is a big plus, but she just wants to see students continue to flourish.
"There is no wrong answer in art," Stinchcomb said.
Palm Beach County voters are not the only ones who will see a question like this on the ballot. St. Lucie Public Schools is also asking for a referendum to continue a tax like this, and Martin County voters just approved it during the primary election.