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Why charter schools have Palm Beach County School Board uneasy about securing funding for security

Posted at 11:45 PM, Jun 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 00:28:45-04

The Palm Beach County School Board is racing against the clock to secure funding for school security, resource officers and teacher pay raises, after deciding to table the wording on ballot referendum until July 18.

They want homeowners to decide whether or not to raise their property tax in November but that vote might not happen. 

A recent legal victory for charter schools in Indian River County has put the Palm Beach County School District between a potentially lengthy lawsuit and an August deadline. 

“The charter schools have put our backs against the wall and we have to make a decision,” said board member Frank Barbieri at Wednesday’s meeting. 

To comply with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act and pay for teacher raises, the Palm Beach County School District wants voters to decide if they’ll raise their property tax. 

They have to agree on ballot language first, and then the county commission will approve that. It has to be on the Supervisor of Election’s desk by August 24.

“I’m not a gambler. So I don’t want to take a chance on not being able to go out for this referendum,” said board member Karen Brill at Wednesday’s meeting. 

Traditionally, school districts do not include charter schools in its legal language. The Indian River County decision questions that standard. If the Palm Beach County School Board leaves them off, they could be sued-potentially missing that August 24 deadline. 

“I can’t tell you yet how I am going to vote. I need to hear more discussion,” said board member Barbara McQuinn Wednesday. 

The millage rate, or property tax that a Palm Beach County homeowner pays that goes to schools was a quarter of a percent. That’s $50 million dollars in revenue. It has expired. The proposed rate is now one percent. With no exemptions, a $250,000 dollars home would cost $250 per year in tax. 

The school board is desperate to get this on the ballot. 

“The reason we’ve been scrambling is because in this short amount of time we’ve been given numerous mandates from the state. Those mandates came down and said that we have no choice but to come up with more money to put a police officer in every school. Do I want a police officer in every school? You better believe I do. Because I have to send my daughter to school and she’s in elementary school and she doesn’t have a police officer right now,” said school board member Erica Whitfield. 

Assuming they hit all their deadlines, they still need voters to approve it November 6.