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Palm Beach County schools approve property tax hike referendum

Money would help pay for security measures
Posted: 11:14 PM, Jul 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-19 08:19:44Z

The Palm Beach County School Board approved unanimously to ask voters to raise their property tax 1 percent to help pay for armed school resource officers on every campus, and mental health resources, to comply with state law. It also would pay for 650 various arts, music and PE teachers, as well as teacher's raises. 

Hanging over Wednesday’s night’s decision was the potential for a charter school to sue since they are not included in the referendum. 

“You are knowingly discriminating against charter school students just because they are attending a public school of choice,” said Linda Terranova, founder of the Western Academy Charter School. 

Many parents addressed the board, expressing concern. 

“Why marginalize charter schools?” another one added. 

It’s typical for the school to leave charters out of policy language, as they reach deals with each one individually, which the school district has vowed to do in this case. 

A charter school in Indian River County recently sued the district there over similar language and won. 

A lengthy lawsuit could mean the measure would be left off the ballot. 

After consulting with their lawyers, the Palm Beach County Board moved forward.

“We have no choice. We need our village, out taxpayers to help,” said board member Karen Brill.

The school board pointed out that they have no oversight into how a charter would use the money. Citing embattled Eagle Arts Academy, which hasn’t paid its teachers in months, Brill made her case. 

“I cannot sit up here as a board member and give money any unstable charter school that blatantly misuses public funds like the one currently in the news,” she said. 

Even if there isn’t a lawsuit, the district would be at the voters’ mercy November 6. 

Michael Burke, the district’s chief financial officer knows what’s at stake. 

“If this referendum does not pass, hard times are going to fall on Palm Beach County,” he said. 

If voters approved the 1 percent increase, a home worth $250,000, with no exemptions, would cost an extra $250 per year. 

This tax would generate about $200 million. The previous property tax used for schools raised $50 million.