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St. Lucie County School Board approves millage tax for November ballot

Current millage rate nets about $25 million for school district
Posted at 8:03 AM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 03:17:54-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — St. Lucie Public Schools board met Tuesday night to decide whether to continue the millage tax and put it on the November ballot.

The decision comes at a time when inflation costs have hit record highs.

If passed by county voters in November, the cost of the tax would remain the same.

In 2018, more than 60% of St. Lucie County voters passed the millage that has been in place for the last four years.

On average, the current millage brings in about $25 million to the school district, according to David Freeland, president of the Education Association St. Lucie.

Freeland said 70% of the millage is used to recruit and retain teachers.

"If the referendum did not pass, teachers would lose up to $6,000 of income," said Freeland. "As I tell members, members say, 'Well, what's the plan if the referendum doesn't pass?' Honestly, there is not a plan. If we had $26 million laying around, we would not need the referendum."

The remaining 30% is used to fund school operations such as enhancing school security and improving mental health programs for students.

Freeland said right now there is a national teacher shortage and that in Florida alone, there are over 4,000 teacher openings.

"That income is important," said Freeland. "It does help keep our salaries competitive, and remember, we're not competing just across the state for quality educators. We're competing nationwide."

All St. Lucie County educators received a $900 profit sharing bonus on May 2.

Freeland said that money was given to teachers by the district after insurance claims remained low despite a surcharge from Florida Blue during the pandemic.