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Proposed property tax hike in Palm Beach County could pay for bevy of school needs

Posted at 6:43 AM, Jun 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 06:44:50-04

Taxes may be going up for property owners in Palm Beach County.

The county school board may decide Wednesday to put forth a referendum asking voters to approve an increase to their property taxes.

If approved, the $200 million would pay for security upgrades, mental health services, teacher raises and renew the current special property tax for choice programs and the arts set to expire in January.

For the average homeowner with a $300,000 house, this tax hike means paying an extra $225 a year. 

School board members say they are in a difficult position.

Stuck with state mandates to increase security after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act, district officials say they need more money to make up for a shortfall in state funds. A district spokesperson said they need to find $2 million in reoccurring costs for personnel alone.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy says that leaves them with no funding options for the hardening of schools.

“I think they (the board) understand the enormity of the situation as it relates to make sure our police force has everything that they need to secure the buildings," Fennoy said. "We’re in South Florida, our buildings, they were built with a lot of doors and a lot of openings, so as we start building new buildings, hardening old buildings, putting new cameras and single point entries and fencing, it’s going to take a lot of revenue to make that happen.”

Ahead of the vote, the Palm Beach Post reports the district may share the money raised with charter schools,  a first for the district who routinely blocked charters from benefiting from school tax referendums. 

If approved, voters will vote on the referendum in November.